They call it "solitary silence" — that internalising of frustration and resentment that is known to be a threat to executive health but which has been regarded as the way to ensure your job security is not threatened.

There is a long tradition of keeping quiet about one's grievances, however much stress and anxiety they set up.

It's partly also out of a reluctance to be seen criticising the management, and as a measure of dignity and self-respect.

However, recent research into occupational stress has demonstrated the physical harm that can come from solitary silence.

The Stress Research Centre Institute at Stockholm University said male workers who suppressed their anger in respect of unfair treatment in the workplace, were 40 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack or die from heart disease than those who vented their anger.

The study tracked 2,755 men for 10 years, comparing work and health factors.

Clearly there is an urgent need to create an opportunity for everyone to vent their feelings in order to minimise and relieve the stress effects.

The most obvious method is known as "upward feedback", where workers report candidly on their perception of their managers.

This view from below provides valuable research for top directors to assess performance, though it may affect relations between employee and supervisor.


Unfortunately, that traditional tendency to keep quiet about problems in the workplace has actually increased.

All over the world, solitary silence remains a silent killer that destroys resistance to stress.

Harith was a young dental technician trained in a big factory in Mumbai, where the discipline was very strict and "manager/employee dynamics" merely consisted of inspection and correction.

When he got his new job in a smaller and more sophisticated firm in Dubai, he had to acclimatise to very different surroundings.

In particular, he was completely unprepared for the quarterly "upward feedback" exercise.


He listened in astonishment the first time the HR Manager explained that employees were encouraged to set down their grievances on paper.

Harith did actually have some grievances.

An uneven workload and having to act as receptionist and switchboard at certain times.

But he found himself unable to take the "opportunity to vent".

I was just coming to the end of a training project on healthy workplace culture at that firm.

Here was the perfect test for their new skills in creating an environment of trust within the team.

I hope they succeeded.

Grievances: Speak up for good

  • - New research proves the danger of internalising grievances.
  • - ‘Opportunities to vent' need to be provided for employees.
  • - Upward feedback, reporting on superiors, is one major outlet.