Making Sense of Organizational Members' Silence: A Sensemaking-Resource Model

Ryan S. Bisel, Elissa N. Arterburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This study presents a sensemaking-resource model of employee silence. Working adults (N = 180) provided retrospective accounts of a decision to refrain from giving upward negative feedback. Constant comparative analysis revealed workers justified their silence as a reasonable course of action by drawing on 2 sensemaking resources: expectation and identity. Emanating from these resources, participants gave 5 reasons for remaining silent: (a) predicting harm to themselves, (b) constructing the supervisor as responsible, (c) questioning their own expertise, (d) predicting supervisors' deafness, and (e) constructing timing as inopportune. The study concludes with implications for organizational silence research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-226
Number of pages10
JournalCommunication Research Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Dissent
  • Organizational Communication
  • Organizational Silence
  • Sensemaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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