Swedes bite their tongues at the office

Outspoken employees are being forced to bite their tongue. Silence is golden in the Swedish workplace where slating your boss could cost you your job.

According to a new study, 43 percent of employees say speaking out against their employers is becoming less acceptable.

The study was commissioned by Seko – the union of service and communication employees and undertaken by market research agency Temo who quizzed 1,000 people on the subject.

Public sector employees feel the greatest need to keep schtum with 54 percent saying that expressing their angst towards employers is a big no-no. Meanwhile, the study also shows that women feel the pressure to stay silent more than men.

“The picture of greedy companies who oppress their employees must be balanced. There is obviously something going on in large areas of the public sector which doesn’t work very well in the eyes of the employee,” says Temo’s Arne Modig.

In comparison, 19 percent of those questioned say they would definitely dare to criticize their employer, a statistic which is too low according to Janne Rudén, chair of Seko.

The results have been interpreted by Seko as a question of job insecurity. “It’s only those who feel safe and are certain they are in no danger who speak out if something is wrong,” Rudén says.

“It is depressing and completely in line with my own experience. Those with less job security daren’t take any risks. People are more inhibited in the workplace these days.”

Eight out of ten employees want unions to exert more influence over working environments. However, unions are reporting that members are refraining to take part in union activities, fearing that it will affect their job position.

Moreover, employees who dare to dish out their disparagement could pay a hefty price.

The study goes on to reveal that every third member of ST – the union of civil servants – says critical colleagues had suffered serious reprisals. From their experience, salaries were cut, employees were given inferior tasks to do and in some cases they even got the sack.

This week Seko launched a billboard advertising campaign to encourage more employees be critical in the workplace and have the courage to condemn their employers.

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Christine Demsteader

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