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Worse Left Unsaid

Make sure employees tell you what's on their minds, especially in a downturn.

This story appears in the July 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Les Potter uses a story to illustrate why it's essential to keep employees talking. A machinist working on a piece of metal for an airplane's landing gear felt something wrong when he lifted it. But he said nothing because his supervisor tended to treat bad-news bearers as if they had caused the problem. The piece was then built into the landing gear, which failed during testing. It was taken apart and, when nothing wrong was found, put back together. The company tested the gear again before the problem was finally found and corrected.

"The amount of time wasted on that one failed landing gear was astronomical," says Potter, a Vienna, Virginia, organizational communication consultant, who says the tale stresses the importance of maintaining employee communications.

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