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Investigating the role of discrete emotions in silence versus speaking up

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-10-03, 14:32 authored by Melrona Kirrane, DEIRDRE O'SHEADEIRDRE O'SHEA, Finian Buckley, Adele Grazi, Joanne Prout
Silence in the workplace is a highly prevalent behaviour, but more is needed to understand the causes and consequences of such behaviour. In this article, we draw on theory and research to examine the role of discrete emotions in decisions to remain silent or to speak up. Three studies with full-time employees were carried out utilizing both qualitative and experimental methodologies. Study 1 (n = 110) demonstrated that there are many reasons for being silent and established fear as the main emotion associated with silence behaviour. Building on the results of Study 1 and using a quasi-experimental vignette design, Study 2 (n = 142) confirmed that different silence motives provoke different emotional experiences. Exploring the behavioural effects of emotions using a further experimental design, Study 3 (n = 80) showed that anger is an antecedent to speaking up about an observed transgression, whereas less intense anger was associated with staying silent. This pattern was not evident for fear. Taken together, these three studies provide empirical data regarding the relationship between silence, emotions, and actions. We contribute to theory and research at the intersection of silence, emotions, and behaviour and offer valuable insights into the dynamics of these concepts in the workplace.



Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology;90 (3), pp. 354-378


Wiley and Sons Ltd




This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: “Investigating the role of discrete emotions in silence versus speaking up” Kirrane, Melrona, O’Shea, Deirdre, Buckley, Finian, Grazi, Adele, Prout, Joanne Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.



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