sit on its hands

sit on (one's) hands

1. To refrain from acting, intervening, or helping. They may not have broken the law themselves, but the CEOs certainly sat on their hands and allowed these illegal activities to happen unchecked. I feel so guilty for sitting on my hands while my son was going through such a difficult time in his life. Why don't you actually help us fix the issue, instead of just sitting on your hands and complaining?
2. To refrain from or refuse to applaud (someone or something). Our show really depends on the audience engaging with the performance, so it's always very off-putting when the people watching just sit on their hands the whole time. I made a point of sitting on my hands while everyone else cheered on the boss's idiotic plan. The whole crowd sat on its hands at the end of my comedy routine, which was incredibly demoralizing.
See also: hand, on, sit

sit on its hands

 and sit on their hands
Fig. [for an audience] to refuse to applaud. (See also sit on one's hands.) The performance was really quite good, but the audience sat on its hands. They sat on their hands during the first act.
See also: hand, on, sit