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The biggest corporate scandals ’caused by a fear of speaking up’

The VW emissions scandal, financial misreporting in Japan, sexual misconduct in Hollywood, slavery in global supply chains, doping in sport – each of these scandals was enabled in part by corporate cultures of silence and complicity.

That’s the conclusion of a new book Speak Up – say what needs to be said and hear what needs to be heard, which examines the business imperatives for breaking down silence.

Authors, Professor Megan Reitz of Ashridge Hult Business School and John Higgins, Research Director at The Right Conversation, argue that only by creating workplaces where openness and transparency are valued, and where individuals can openly share their ideas and concerns, can businesses hope to avoid scandal in the future and benefit fully from innovative ideas.

The book reveals that one in 4 junior employees believe they would be punished if they spoke up about a risk in their workplace. Drawing on research involving more than four thousand employees at every level of business, Speak Up explores the reasons why many choose to stay silent about even the most harmless of things – lack of confidence, fearfulness, over-estimating the risks of speaking up.

The book asserts that people are poor at listening too, arguing that many have a blind spot in relation to their own approachability and ability to hear what’s really being said.

Speak Up: Say what needs to be said and hear what needs to be heard is out 18 July 2019, published by Pearson, priced £14.99.