Silence at work exacts a high price on both companies and society. But when we are able to freely express our opinions, everyone benefits.

Research suggests that people who feel empowered to share information and ideas at work tend to be more engaged and motivated. This positive attitude then flows into other realms of life.

When people think it’s useless to bring up problems they face on the job, they begin to feel powerless outside the office, too. Due to a spillover effect, “learned helplessness” in the workplace presents big risks for communities. It can affect the quality of ties that people have with others, whether they vote in elections and the amount of volunteering they do. It can also impact how they identify with their communities.

What to do, according to researchers: learn to listen, give everyone a chance to speak and reduce hierarchies.