As a leader, the lion’s share of responsibility for your company’s climate and communication style rests on your shoulders. Lack of transparency has troubled many companies, but a failure to address issues in the workplace can have a debilitating effect on company morale and productivity.

A recent example occurred at Amazon, where an unhappy employee attempted suicide on the job. Though the event was well known, both within and outside the company, management failed to address the issue with the staff. It’s hard to say why. Suicide is never an easy topic, but ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. On the contrary, many employees were so unhappy at the lack of communication from above that they took to an anonymous app to express their frustrations. And as is usual in cases like this, lack of information is a breeding ground for rumors and speculation.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, David Maxfield Summarizes recent research on communication within a company. The focus of “How a Culture of Silence Eats Away at Your Company” is mainly on how employees communicate with management. However, management sets the tone. As I wrote a couple years ago, “The bedrock for . . . all good communication is honesty.”

I’ll leave you with Maxfield’s conclusion, but do yourself a favor–the complete article is worth reading more than once.

When leaders model these behaviors, they lay the foundation for a culture of dialogue where employees can speak up, share concerns, confront colleagues, advocate for better solutions, and achieve alignment and agreement where it may be lacking. Cultures of dialogue are not only full of happier, more engaged employees — they also reap the kind of bottom-line results that can mean the difference between success and failure.

According to this principle, management at Amazon is doing a poor job of modeling open, honest communication.

If you recognize that your company culture is not what you’d like it to be, shoot me an e-mail at and we can talk about the steps needed to do a reset. It’s never too late to be better.

photo credit: PeterThoeny Sail on fire via photopin (license)