International Differences in Employee Silence Motives: Scale Validation, Prevalence, and Relationships with Culture Characteristics across 33 Countries

Michael Knoll*, Martin Götz, Elisa Adriasola, Amer Ali Al‐Atwi, Alicia Arenas, Kokou A. Atitsogbe, Stephen Barrett, Anindo Bhattacharjee, Norman D. Blanco C., Sabina Bogilović, Grégoire Bollmann, Janine Bosak, Cagri Bulut, Madeline Carter, Matej Cerne, Susanna L. M. Chui, Donatella Di Marco, Gesa Duden, Vicki Elsey, Makoto FujimuraPaola Gatti, Chiara Ghislieri, Steffen R. Giessner, Kenta Hino, Joeri Hofmans, Thomas S. Jønsson, Pazambadi Kazimna, Kevin B. Lowe, Juliana Malagon, Hassan Mohebbi, Anthony Montgomery, Lucas Monzani, Anne Nederveen Pieterse, Muhammed Ngoma, Emir Ozeren, Deirdre O'Shea, Christina Lundsgaard Ottsen, Jennifer Pickett, Anna A. Rangkuti, Sylwiusz Retowski, Farzad Sattari Ardabili, Razia Shaukat, Silvia A. Silva, Ana Šimunić, Niklas K. Steffens, Faniya Sultanova, Daria Szücs, Susana M. Tavares, Arun Tipandjan, Rolf Dick, Dimitri Vasiljevic, Sut I. Wong, Hannes Zacher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
60 Downloads (Pure)


Employee silence, the withholding of work-related ideas, questions, or concerns from someone who could effect change, has been proposed to hamper individual and collective learning as well as the detection of errors and unethical behaviors in many areas of the world. To facilitate cross-cultural research, we validated an instrument measuring four employee silence motives (i.e., silence based on fear, resignation, prosocial, and selfish motives) in 21 languages. Across 33 countries (N = 8,222) representing diverse cultural clusters, the instrument shows good psychometric properties (i.e., internal reliabilities, factor structure, and measurement invariance). Results further revealed similarities and differences in the prevalence of silence motives between countries, but did not necessarily support cultural stereotypes. To explore the role of culture for silence, we examined relationships of silence motives with the societal practices cultural dimensions from the GLOBE Program. We found relationships between silence motives and power distance, institutional collectivism, and uncertainty avoidance. Overall, the findings suggest that relationships between silence and cultural dimensions are more complex than commonly assumed. We discuss the explanatory power of nations as (cultural) units of analysis, our social scientific approach, the predictive value of cultural dimensions, and opportunities to extend silence research geographically, methodologically, and conceptually.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-648
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number5
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


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