Expert answer:CSU Global Campus Improving Workplace Communicatio


Solved by verified expert:Option #2: Improving Workplace CommunicationBased on the article from the weekly required readings entitled, “Workplace communication problems: Inquiries by employees and applicable solutions (Links to an external site.),” with a specific focus on the section Communication Skills Education is a Priority, imagine a scenario within a team where poor communication is prevalent and basic communication skills, both oral and written, are sorely lacking. Imagine leading this team and develop a plan with at least three action items to move the team from poor communication to effective oral and written communication.Research proven communication methods through four scholarly journal articles. Conclude the plan with justification as to why the three action items are the best choices.Make sure your well-developed plan includes critical thinking in which leadership communication is demonstrated, in conjunction with scholarly writing attributes and professionalism.Your well-written plan must adhere to the following parameters:Be 3-4 pages in length, not including the title and reference pages.Be supported by four scholarly references. Remember, you must support your thinking and prior knowledge with references; all facts must be supported; in-text references used throughout the assignment must be included in an APA-formatted reference list.

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International Journal of Business and Management; Vol. 11, No. 2; 2016
ISSN 1833-3850
E-ISSN 1833-8119
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
Supervisor-Subordinate Communication: Workplace Bullying and the
Tyrannical Mum Effect
Jeremy E. Beakley1
University of Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Correspondence: Jeremy E.
Received: November 30, 2015
Accepted: January 15, 2016
Online Published: January 23, 2016
Real, or perceived, workplace bullying exhibited by a supervisor against a subordinate may condition a
subordinate to withhold disagreement, or communication of contrarian information, from the supervisor. Existing
research and literature demonstrate the mum effect and its influence on communicators given generally neutral
associations with message recipients. The mum effect is the tendency for communicators to feel a sense of guilt
and association with bad news delivered to a message recipient. Given an alternative, communicators prefer to
remain mum than to deliver the bad news. However, research of the mum effect has minimally explored
divergent conditions. Through an exploration of workplace bullying, whistleblowing, and existing literature
regarding the mum effect, the author presents a divergent theme to the hierarchical mum effect which the author
labels the tyrannical mum effect. The tyrannical mum effect is established under the framework of seven
propositions which provide the foundation by which a supervisor exhibits workplace hostility to subordinates,
subordinate interpretation of the hostility, and the willingness of the subordinate to communicate disagreement in
a hostile work environment. The seven propositions of the tyrannical mum effect provide opportunity for future
Keywords: Mum effect, hierarchical, tyrannical, workplace bullying, hostile, retaliatory, retribution, aggressive,
whistleblowing, fear, retribution, insecurity, apathy
1. Tyrannical Mum Effect
The Industrial Revolution ushered in a new era of mass production which married a dependence on both manual
labor and powered resources. This method of manufacturing established a highly productive workforce of which
the world had not seen before. Since the Industrial Revolution, management and leadership theory has
continuously evolved to adapt to emerging business, consumer, and employee needs. Arguably, one of the
greatest paradigm shifts in management and leadership theory is in response to the reduced reliance on manual
labor and increased dependency on the knowledge worker (Drucker, 1999). Drucker describes the rapid growth
of the knowledge worker represents organizational increased dependency on a tremendous amount of both
advanced and theoretical knowledge. Arukhe (2014) argues the importance of organizations to implement
strategic knowledge management systems to capture the valuable knowledge and information available within a
diverse workforce.
Obtaining information from a workforce, in addition to the implementation of knowledge management systems,
is equally dependent upon the workforce’s willingness to communicate both good and bad news for the benefit
of organizational long-term prosperity. Šebestová and Rylková (2011) posit that organizations that establish
learning into the doing of daily operation develop increased competitive advantage within their respective
industries. Conversely, Gandel (2010) suggests that organizations that do not foster open and honest
communication in fact reinforce “bad behaviors instead of fixing them” (p. 1). Effective knowledge management
systems may be inhibited by workplace cultures that foster subordinate choice of “silence and equivocation” in
lieu of risking the continued subordinate-supervisor relationship by communicating contrarian information (Bisel,
Messersmith, & Kelley, 2012, p. 138). The mum effect, which has developed since the early 1970’s, is a
phenomenon by which individuals fear personal association with the communication of bad news.
The knowledge worker requires a different management style than that of the Industrial Revolution laborer.
Knowledge workers require autonomy and the ability to innovate. Rather than seen as an operational cost,
International Journal of Business and Management
Vol. 11, No. 2; 2016
Drucker (1999) contends the knowledge worker should be viewed by management as an asset that produces
quality more so than quantity. Subordinates who believe they cannot communicate with supervisors effectively
inhibit organizational innovation and, particularly for the knowledge worker, work in a less satisfying career. In
the workplace, the mum effect can directly challenge a subordinate’s workplace self-esteem and diminish job
satisfaction (Payne, 2007).
The article first explores the existing research establishing the mum effect. Seven propositions establish the
foundation for additional research into the tyrannical mum effect. These seven propositions are presented via an
exploration of established research connecting the hierarchical mum effect to workplace bullying and
organizational whistleblowing procedures.
2. Progression of Mum Theory
Tesser and Rosen (1972) identified the mum effect in their study examining the reluctance of a communicator to
share bad news when the communicator and recipient shared similar and dissimilar fates resulting from the
communication. In this study, both the communicator and recipient received low levels of electric shock when
the participants shared the same fate of “bad news.” However, in the event the recipient was the only individual
subjected to “bad news” and received a shock, this individual was instructed to respond as though receiving an
electric shock causing extreme pain. The researchers found through their collection of data that the
communicators were most likely to feel guilt when communicating bad news effecting the recipient only.
Particularly, the communicators themselves felt an “association” with the message.
Weening, Groenenboom, and Wilke (2001) explored Tesser and Rosen’s study results and argued a counter
position. Weening et al. contended that the level of established relationship between the communicator and
recipient may be a mitigating factor to the degree of guilt with which the communicator may associate. However,
Yariv (2006) refutes Weening et al. through a study of negative feedback coaching methods. Yariv found that
message communicators in fact continued to demonstrate strong associations of guilt for communicating bad
news despite skills practiced through negative feedback coaching. Yet, neither Weending et al. nor Yariv
specifically explored the extreme conditions of hostile work environments or the resulting effect on subordinates’
willingness to speak out.
2.1 Moral Mum Effect
The mum effect was further studied by Bisel, Kelley, Ploeger, and Messersmith (2011) in an examination of
research participants’ willingness to justify, or deny, making immoral decisions in the workplace. In their study,
Bisel et al. presented subordinates and supervisors with morally questionable scenarios. The researchers
identified participant willingness to withhold disagreement to the use of certain immoral scenarios. Particularly,
it was identified that “females, younger workers, and those with the least work experience are most indirect in
denying an unethical request” (p. 465). Consequently, Bisel et al. demonstrate the application of the mum effect
in the workplace and subordinate willingness to change their behaviors given circumstances of moral ambiguity,
thus coining the term moral mum effect.
2.2 Hierarchical Mum Effect
Bisel, Messersmith, and Kelley (BM&K) (2012) coined the term hierarchical mum effect building their theory
that organizational command structure and relational context may foster a mum workplace. In the BM&K model,
nine propositions were established to identify conditions which may influence a subordinate to remain mum to
their supervisor. The first proposition suggested workers with employment contracts felt greater security than
those without (#1). The next two propositions assumes supervisors are more motivated in protecting their own
public self-image (#2) than their subordinates’ (#3). In contrast, the following two propositions presume
subordinate interest in protecting both their own (#4), as well as their supervisors’ (#5), public self-images. Next,
the propositions establish that supervisor public self-image is more threatened by negative feedback from
subordinates than visa-versa (#6), and subordinates tend to use “silence and equivocation” in lieu of
communicating disagreement which may threaten the supervisor (#7). Larger hierarchical structures are
presumed to heighten the effects of the hierarchical mum effect (#8). As a mitigating proposition, the authors
suggest anonymous feedback channels as a means to overcome work environments subject to the mum effect
(#9). In order to test the researchers’ propositions, BM&K recommended future research using field observations
to capture socialized expectations and culture which may suppress organizational dissent.
2.3 Organizational Leadership Awareness
Beakley (2015) conducted a modified Delphi study to further explore the BM&K propositions. Via successive
rounds of survey data collection to further establish the conditions which foster a mum workplace, the Beakley
International Journal of Business and Management
Vol. 11, No. 2; 2016
study explored the opinions of knowledgeable participants the supervisor and subordinate characteristics which
foster a mum environment and to identify leadership styles most conducive to subordinate freedom to
communicate bad news. A panel of knowledgeable participants via a modified Delphi method study, with
qualifying years of management and work experience, was used in lieu of alternative qualitative study methods,
out of concerns that observations or direct interviews of employees performing in a mum environment may
provide biased and dishonest feedback due to the mum effect itself. Based on Yukl (2013) leadership definitions
provided, study participants ranked each leadership style on a scale of (+5) strongly cultivating open
communication, and (-5) strongly cultivating a mum environment. The Beakley study found transformational
and participative leadership styles most conducive of honest subordinate-supervisor information sharing,
whereas transactional and intellectual leadership styles were the least conducive (see Table 1).
Table 1. Leadership styles fostering mum versus open-communication environments
Leadership Style
St. Dev.
(Beakley, 2015, p. 90).
The Beakley study further identified the supervisor and subordinate characteristics most likely to contribute to
fostering a mum workplace, as well as the disparity between the characteristic and upper-management awareness
of the characteristic. The Beakley study found several characteristics of the hierarchical mum effect which
support several of BM&K propositions, including: Supervisor ego non-conducive to negative feedback
(proposition #6), subordinate passive or insecure (proposition #7), perceived closed-door culture (proposition
While, the study yielded less insight into propositions 1-5, the results of the study did produce ample opportunity
to further explore the conditions under which proposition #9 is applicable:
“Anonymous feedback channels (when used frequently and heedfully by top-level decision makers) moderate
the association between structural and functional distance in supervisor-subordinate relationships and
organizational learning outcomes” (Bisel et al., 2012, p. 140).
Interestingly, the Beakley study found that supervisor characteristics of being retaliatory, non-responsive to
subordinate communication, and having aggressive demeanor were among the highest characteristics identified
by study participants. Additionally, the researcher found high upper-management disparity in awareness of each
supervisor retaliatory behaviors. Further, this study found the greatest subordinate characteristics likely to foster
a mum environment were the fear of consequences, insecurity, and apathy. Likewise, the Beakley study found
very high disparity in upper-management’s awareness of the subordinate characteristics of fear of consequences,
insecurity, and apathy (see Table 2).
International Journal of Business and Management
Vol. 11, No. 2; 2016
Table 2. Factors fostering a mum work environment
Retaliatory (Supervisor)
Awareness of Factors
Aggressive Behavior/Demeanor (Supervisor)
Fear of Consequences/Retribution (Subordinate)
Insecure / Lack of Confidence (Subordinate)
Apathetic / Disengaged (Subordinate)
(Note: + = very high disparity; * = very low disparity) “Very
high/low” set at +/- 1 point of study mean disparity of 2.83.
(Beakley, 2015, pp. 98-99, & p. 191).
The author acknowledges that different leadership styles are necessary under different work conditions,
industries, and cultures. As such, aggressive and retaliatory supervisor behaviors, which in turn may be related to
subordinate fear of retribution, are not necessarily present in all work environments. Thus, additional supervisor
and subordinate characteristics of the hierarchical mum effect may be found which further support BM&K
propositions 1-5. Nevertheless, the Beakley modified Delphi study (n = 24) represents strong evidence of
workplace bullying as an important element which may foster workplace mumming effects. As workplace
bullying was a divergent theme in the modified Delphi study, Beakley acknowledged this area as an opportunity
for future research. In the following paragraphs, the author describes the tyrannical mum effect
2.4 Tyrannical Mum Effect
Whereas the hierarchical mum effect addresses the propensity of subordinates’ option to remain mum to
supervisors due to the constraints of the hierarchical structure and that structure’s emphasis on protecting the
supervisor’s public self-image, the tyrannical mum effect is a divergent theme which directly explores workplace
bullying when the supervisor is the perpetrator of hostility. Although related, the emergence of this divergent
theme as a strong predictor of mum workplace environments may reflect certain conditions which may influence
the hierarchical mum effect by either pre-empting, or possibly further exacerbating, the hierarchical mum effect.
What is not clear is if the BM&K propositions further support a workplace environment which protect a
tyrannical supervisor, if a tyrannical supervisor establishes workplace conditions that render the BM&K
propositions unreliable, or if the tyrannical supervisor has no influence on the hierarchical mum effect at all.
A discussion of the tyrannical mum effect revisits the Weening et al. (2001) and Yariv (2006) debate with a
unique perspective: The mumming effect of an overtly abusive supervisor. Weening et al. postulated the degree
of association between the communicator and message recipient is an influential factor to whether the mum
effect causes the message communicator discomfort in communicating disagreement or negative information.
Yariv refuted this, citing study evidence demonstrating negative feedback coaching sessions failed to mitigate a
communicator’s negative feeling of association to communicating bad news. However, Yariv’s study did not
address the divergent theme of overtly aggressive message recipients. While Yariv’s position may refute
Weening et al.’s argument that associated relationships between communicator and message recipient may
influence the mumming effects on the communicator, Yariv’s position does not address the compounding
complications of the mum effect upon the communicator resulting from specifically a hostile relationship with
the message recipient. Thus the opportunity to further explore subordinate reluctance to disagree, or
communicate bad news, to a tyrannical supervisor is additionally supported.
The author believes that when the workplace bully is the message recipient, and in particular is the supervisor, a
communicator is further predisposed to respond differently to negative feedback coaching sessions than would a
communicator with only an associated relationship to the message recipient. Therefore, in support of Weening et
al.’s position, the author proposes the level of developed association between communicator and message
recipient is, in fact, an influential factor to the receptiveness to negative feedback coaching sessions, and thusly
the willingness of a communicator to attempt application of lessons learned.
International Journal of Business and Management
Vol. 11, No. 2; 2016
2.5 Workplace Bullying
According to Saunders, Huynh, and Goodman-Delahunty (2007), the discussion of workplace bullying only
began to build momentum in 1992. Prior to that, Saunders et al. explain, the focus on bullying behaviors
centered largely on discriminatory behaviors in the workplace against protected classes based on sex, sexual
orientation, race, national origin, and religion. Accordingly, a myriad of diverse definitions of workplace
bullying began to develop, including such characteristics as persistent downgrading, criticism, vicious
humiliation, slander, and unseen acts including isolation and assignment of meaningless tasks (Nazarko, 2001;
Karatuna, 2015). It was not until 1994, Saunders et al. cites the Swedish Board of Occupational Safety and
Health, that the first anti-bullying legislation was passed which provided a working definition for workplace
bullying as “recurrent reprehensible or distinctly negative actions which are directed against individual
employees in an offensive manner and can result in those employees being placed outside the workplace
community” (p. 342).
Workplace bullying is a phenomenon which occurs both between coworkers as well as across hierarchical
positions of authority. Nazarko (2001) emphasizes the significance of supervisor bullying tactics in describing
“the bully’s ‘management skills’ consist of aggression and undermining staff” and effectively diminish
subordinate encouragement, abilities, and motivation (p. 14). The tyrannical supervisor complicates work
processes by withholding information necessary for subordinate success (Takaki, Taniguchi, & Hirokawa, 2013).
The onus of responsibility to seek clarification of work processes arguably falls on the subordinate. However,
Bartlett and Bartlett (2011) caution that the tyrannical supervisor stifles and overrules opinions and flaunts status
and power to discourage feedback from subordinates. Subordinates dependent on the tyrannical supervisor for
direction are discouraged from seeking help and fear failing to meet the supervisor’s expected performance
Proposition 1: The tyrannical supervisor uses threats and intimidation to influence the subordinate to meet or
exceed performance expectations under the supervisor’s specific instructions.
The tyrannical supervisor expects the subordinate to meet or exceed performance expectations via the precise
direction …
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