I’ve lived through this phenomenon first hand. The environment was new to me, sitting at my assigned seat at the cherry wood conference table for the weekly executive staff meeting. I was told very clearly that I was to stick to the presentation, answer only when asked a direct question, and never, no matter what happens, ask why! After being ushered out of the meeting when I finished, we quickly huddled for a post-meeting debrief. Everyone started asking “How do you think it went?,” “What do you think he meant when he said this?,” and “Did you understand what he asked us to do?”
I finally asked, “Why didn’t we just ask him?”
Before the laughter died down, I realized it was a silly question to ask. Asking questions was a sign of weakness, and asking “why” was viewed as either professional embarrassment or insubordination. But I knew I would keep asking questions and wondered how this could possibly end well for my career.