“If a vocal minority, however fervent its cause, prevails over reason and the will of the majority, this Nation has no future as a free society.”


Richard Nixon <silent majority speech to USA>

As the United State edge its way toward another election day, in honor of the fact a significant portion of the most capable citizens will NOT vote despite the fact the president has low approval ratings <say in the 40% approval rating> and the Senators & House of Representatives <the other elected officials> have even lower approval ratings <say in the teens … less than 20%> I am going to talk about the silent majority and businesses.

First. The concept of “silent majority.”

“a large and normally undemonstrative cross section of the country that refrains from articulating its opinions …”


Second. Most organizations have a ‘large & normally undemonstrative’ employee base.

Yup. Despite what you may read and hear on the internet about ‘the voice of the people’ most employees remain silent <at least in public>.

That said. We, who may have been fortunate enough to oversee organizations, recognize ideas to be heardone of those most difficult things in a business organization is discerning whether the vocal few is speaking for the silent majority.

In fact. There has been an entire array of ‘learning & listening’ tactics developed to attempt to tap into the minds of the larger organization mind. They have been developed because no matter how good a leader is there is separation between where they are <and what they do> and where the ‘ground troops’ are <and what they do>. Good leaders pay attention to this stuff mainly for two reasons:

–          A content, reasonably-aligned, organization is an effective organization <and more efficient>

–          Activating the silent majority is like putting your organization into a higher gear <you go faster & exert more productive energy & produce more>.

Now. I suspect that I view this whole ‘activating the silent majority’ quite differently than traditional management & organizational behavior people>.

Most organizational culture people always seem to discuss ‘creating a culture of … whatever” … and then expect everyone in the organization to live eat and breathe it.

Well. Seems kind of silly to me.

Nice vision and certainly everyone should seek to create that cultural north star, but expecting everyone to do and act the same?


Why? Because like it or not the world, and organizations are typically reflections of the world, are made up of a silent majority. america one heartbeatYou may not like it but it is what it is. And trying to change that is typically wasted energy.

Now. That doesn’t mean you cannot create a culture and utilize an entire organization.

Let me tell you what I mean.

–          culturally fostering an “I care” attitude.

To be clear. This is an attitude and not behavior.

Too often leaders confuse the two … mainly because they tend to be results people and want to see tangible behavior.

Silly. Focus on attitude through principles. Your objective is to foster an almost subconscious attitude which permeates day to day business life. The point here is not to measure anything <DOH!>.


I just typed that.

This is more about priming the pump than pumping the water.

Sure. I envision if you do this correctly you will see some actual behavior consistent with whatever ‘I care about’ attitude you encourage. But if you start chasing behavior <or encouraging the best of the best behavior to the non best performers> you will actually begin to demotivate the silent majority and lessen your chances to activate when you want to activate.

Which leads me to number 2. Activating the attitude.

–          Strategic ‘I care’ behavior

Remember. I am speaking about the silent majority. If you have fostered an ‘I care’ attitude you can actually strategically ask for behavior. You see .. culture is more about how people do things then it is some nebulous ‘culture’ so if, attitudinally, the organization is carrying around a common set of principles if you actually ask them to do something within that set of principles you have, well, created behavioral traction.

Let me split this into random “I care” behavior and requested “I care” behavior.

One way is to maybe encourage a one <annual> time ‘I care’ behavior. The other way is to maybe set up a system that permits random one time behavior whenever the silent majority wants to exhibit the behavior.

Your choice. I am a ‘one time alignment guy’ myself but there is no real wrong way to do.

I prefer the one time alignment because I believe if you can get an organization all doing one thing at exactly the same time you get two benefits:

–          (1) it is like an organizational chiropractor aligning the backbone of the organizationally attitude & behaviorwise, and

–          (2) you get a one time organizational ‘lift’  from which your challenge is to maintain  <at least a percentage of it> the lift so that the entire organization feels, and sees, some benefit .

But. If you do not like that philosophy … just as with random acts of kindness … if you can foster an ongoing trickle effect that can be just as effective <so don’t let some consultant try and convince you that there is only one effective way>.

Ok. That said.

I decided to write about this today because political stability/functionability in the U.S. seems nowhere in sight. And, yet, there will be an election in which the organization <the people> could actually affect the end functional ability.

And while there are signs of unrest throughout the organization <the country> the truth is that we have not figured out how to activate the silent majority.

The learning to businesses is that polls can only reflect so much. Maybe some overall dissatisfaction. Maybe some overall specifics, but even the specifics get blurry when discussed in detail. A lot of the pompous people call it ‘low information voters’ or ‘the disengaged.’

Silly. And stupid. And wrong.

The majority of people in organizations are NOT disengaged, in fact, they are clearly engaged with regard to what crosses their desk or the assembly line or whatever task they have responsibility to complete in the moment.

care i do They are clearly engaged in making it through each day successfully and hopefully, in some form or fashion, walking out feeling like they had a good day.

Far too many leaders forget his <or maybe in some delusional way they wish it were not so>.

Leaders need to remember something that the US Declaration of Independence states: 

“whenever any form of government becomes destructive …, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.”


This does not suggest organizational revolution. This actually comes to life in a ‘deactivated silent majority.’ And THAT does alter or abolish the organization. It is almost the worst nightmare to any leader — silent destruction of their organization. And it happens because leaders … even the good ones … struggle to discern the few loud from the silent many.

I will go back to politics to make my point. Someone said to me that it seems like the world is more split between extremes than ever before. And America <is almost> evenly split between conservative & liberal.

Well. No. None of that is right.

It was President Nixon who gave the speech in which he spoke of the “silent majority” in American politics.

These were the people who didn’t wave signs or march in the streets. They were the people who quietly went about their lives, going to work, raising their families and hunkered down within their communities. These were the Americans who want their leaders to set aside ideology and do what’s best for the country.

This is America’s silent majority. These are the Americans who watch ESPN and HGTV and American Idol and Modern Family at night instead of MSNBC and Fox.

Business leaders take note. It is exactly the same in your organization.

That said.

The minority is loud.

Typically the minority is fairly articulate.

Whew. Once again.

This means one of the most difficult things to figure out in business management is whether the vocal few speak for the silent majority.

Okay. Here are some things I do know about the silent majority in a business care maria-menounosliorganization:

They are the local community leaders who make a country great.

They participate in community monthly meetings.

They coach the Little League baseball team or they drive their kids to soccer practice.

They have jobs.

They pay taxes.

They have full schedules.

They read newspapers <maybe online> but they don’t have time to get all worked up reading the extreme right or left blog sites.

They want a functioning government, at the local, state and federal level, but especially at the local level.

They want their schools to be good because it is better for property values <and better for their kids>.

They are willing to pay their fair share in taxes, but they are disgusted by how much waste they see in government.

They are willing to give their neighbors a helping hand, but they don’t appreciate people ripping off the system.

They like respectful dialogue and they don’t like the haters.

They don’t feel comfortable with those folks who are extreme with regard to … well … anything but doing the right thing & working hard.


The silent majority doesn’t actively participate in polls or conventions or caucuses … why? … because they have jobs they have to go do.

And maybe most importantly to leaders.

organize fishThey don’t pick insurgents.

They don’t pick revolutionaries.

They don’t pick dark horses in their organizations as managers and leaders.


Business leaders think about this:

–          All the liberals suggesting the people have decided that they are ‘in the right.’ They represent maybe 28% of the adult population.

–          The conservatives who argue the country is split and they will not back down on what is “right” <pun intended>? They represent maybe 24%.

Almost 50% remains silent. They are the silent majority. That is your organization.

Now. This is not an indictment on the silence or a suggestion that everyone needs to step up to the plate.

I am simply making a point. A point that the vocal in your business are the few. A point that it is always difficult to discern if the vocal truly represent the majority.

If you are a business leader and need something to think about, here is what I know about your organization employees. They want:

–          A fair shot at success.

–          A fair shot at living a comfortable life <not a luxurious life but a comfortable one>.

–          A stable life within a stable company.

Many remain silent <I imagine> because the majority <of the silent> probably kind of feel like it is obvious.

Interestingly when surveys and studies actually do get to these people, once you get beyond the gripes about government and greedy business people <both of which they have fair gripes with> they have some relatively simplistic thoughts on Life.


A moral compass.




Here is a truth that I wish people would remember.

No one, and research shows this time and time again, begrudges the rich who earn what they earn by working hard.

No one suggests that everyone gets a free deal.

No one thinks it has to be easy … but hope it could be a little bit easier.

And everyone wants their kids to have a chance even if they, themselves, may not have it.

Look.silent majority bloggers

Any business leader will be successful if they can attitudinally engage and strategically create behavior with their silent majority.

My fear is that many business leaders think their organization is NOT silent and they are hearing the streets howl with truth.

Nope. The truth more often resides somewhere in the silence.


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Written by Bruce