This is not always the case. The story is adapted from inspirational real circumstances, combined with some of my past experiences and then shared.
It was an important project, with a deadline. You know, one of those "deadline regulated by law" types of things. People had high hopes on new technologies being introduced making us more productive. But new technologies had surprises, and under pressure people were starting to feel like someone else was slowing their bit down.
On one occasion, there was an outburst of frustration. Two weeks later, the fellow who had not contained herself, was replaced. Consultants are replaceable. We needed the good atmosphere, something that said that we can make the challenging schedule.
It's not that anyone had evidence on the schedule being off. There was just a lot to do. Including a lot of surprises.
But with all these things between us that we couldn't say for various reasons, I suspect none would speak up if they were concerned. So I focused on my tasks. My work. And while there was nothing to test, I was just prepping mentally, reading stuff online, asking for tasks I could do every now and then.
I can't imagine having to be afraid of being fired for speaking up. I can't imagine even being afraid of being fired if I lost my temper and said something inappropriate, as long as we work things out afterwards.
I can't imagine I would passively wait for work to be assigned to me, or that I would go ask for tasks. I ask for goals and purposes, and in collaboration find the things I can contribute or learn on.
I've worked in places with reputation like this, without having the same problems. I've always attributed this to skills of how to take things forward: being nice, being active.
We're all work in progress and while we can't change the way others behave, we can change how we behave in response. I would hope to learn to model better behaviors with hopes of some of it catching on. Say nice things. Encourage. Be helpful. Believe people mean good. Have patience.
It's hard work, but makes life so much nicer.