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3 Reasons Your Team Doesn’t Speak Up

Often when we are starting with a team, one of the concerns is that people just aren’t speaking up and having the rich debate and dialogue needed to get to creative outcomes.

There can be a number of reasons that this is an issue and since it comes up often enough, we thought we’d share some of our thoughts and insights from working through this issue a few times.

Reason 1: Unresolved Conflict Between Key Team Members

Indeed, that can very well be the issue and the biggest problem is that usually team members just want the parties involved to take things offline and work it out.

However, here’s the deal, the problem isn’t just the obvious parties involved. Often when we work with a team where there are some clear issues between team members – everyone on the team knows about it and won’t own their part. When team members don’t directly address the impact other team members are having on the team, they are underplaying both their own ability to influence and frankly their own responsibility for the problem getting worse.

When teams can confront issues openly and honestly – not making others wrong but getting curious and interested in the differences – this can facilitate and support differences getting cleared up.

It’s not about punishing but supporting people in being willing to bring up their differences and have the help of others to reflect back and possibly create more dialogue.

So when you think you team’s problem is the gap and conflict between other team members – don’t go silent – step in and get curious.

Reason 2: The Team is Too Big. So People Advocate Instead of Inquire

This is another classic issue. When a team is lager than twelve it does become difficult for people to believe that there is time to be interested, inquire and work to understand each other’s positions. Instead people advocate and explain their own position, concerned that with limited time it’s important to speak up and make sure their team’s issues are represented.

Often the hardest part in getting leaders to reduce team size is that busy leaders often due a very poor job of cascading communications down. Therefore, everyone wants to be at the leadership level because otherwise they won’t have the information.

This is a problem of cascading the information – not having everyone present for every meeting. Organizations that have healthy dialogue at all levels of the organizations don’t need big teams of leaders – put small teams that ensure the information goes up, across and down with ease and honesty!

Reason 3: I’ll Just Cover My Concerns in Our One-on-One

This one is often the biggest challenge. If team members know they can just have a conversation with their leader or supervisor in a one-on one - they will. They won’t risk having tough conversations in the meeting itself.

Sometimes it simply they don’t want the challenges from other team members. Sometimes they don’t want to look bad in a team meeting. But let’s face it, we all have much more control when talking one-on-one than when in larger group.

This scenario, however, creates silos where you don’t have the input, impact, or accountability of the team. Of course, it can be harder and may take longer to actively discuss and work through issues in a group, when resources are limited or budget is an issue. However, working in silos does not leverage the team’s human potential for creativity and innovation.


These are a few classic, and often common, issues we’ve seen teams face. Don’t settle for mediocre. Challenge yourself and your team to look at why your team isn’t having that rich debate and dialogue on a regular basis.

Because if your meetings are silent or reduced to simply status reporting you may be missing out on your greatest resource – actual teamwork!

Make Your Team Great,


P.S. Is your team struggling with these issues and/or politics, silos, and gossip? Please reach out at We’d be happy to chat about what’s going on and see if we can help.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Check out their website: Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn. Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It! Find your copy of The Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing Your Team's Competitive Advantage here.

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