During re-entry of the Columbia shuttle on February 1, 2003, the craft disintegrated, killing all seven crew members on board. It was later discovered that warnings and concerns about potential damage were suppressed, resulting in this stinging statement in a follow-up report: “NASA’s organizational culture had as much to do with this accident as the foam did.” Investigators said the culture was characterized by “barriers that prevented effective communication of critical safety information and stifled professional differences of opinion.”
The Columbia disaster is only one example highlighted in a Harvard Management Communication article, How to Get the Bad News You Need. It states that few executives actively engage in suppressing the flow of information, but the absence of policies and procedures to encourage employees to speak up, actually encourages them to keep vital information to themselves. The threat of embarrassment, humiliation or career damage is a silencer that can be overcome using some of the following strategies:
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