Sometimes it’s difficult to speak up at work. To put your opinions
out there. But for numerous reasons, you need to put your two cents in.
TNJ.com got some feedback on speaking up and speaking out at work.
Here’s what experts had to say.
Why people don’t speak out at work
of retribution: “The number one reason people do not speak up and speak
candidly is because they don’t want to lose their jobs and livelihoods.
Employees truly fear workplace retaliation,” says career coach Jeneen
--Lack of confidence: “People would hesitate to speak up because they don’t trust that their ideas will be taken seriously, that questions will result in being perceived as being a naysayer or slowing down progress, and/or speaking up with questions or challenging ideas is subversive or not being a ‘team player.’ A boss or facilitator with poor leadership skills won’t make space for a continuous feedback loop, so ‘speaking up’ only happens during potentially high stress situations (such as a meeting or evaluation),” says career coach Beth L. Buelow, author of “The Introvert Entrepreneur: Amplify Your Strengths & Create Success on Your Own Terms.”
--Don’t like confrontation. “It’s possible that it takes too much energy to speak up and out if they’re consistently being drowned out by more dominant, outspoken personalities. Internal considerations are heavily influenced by the external – if trust, safety, and inclusivity don’t exist, then even a confident employee won’t speak up (or they will do so but risk their position),” adds Buelow.
Why You Should Speak Up
--Your voice is “you”: “Your voice is a key part of your personal brand. In order to get more of the opportunities you desire, it's important that you establish yourself as a 'go-to' person, a person who others know and trust as a valuable asset in your area/industry,” says leadership and personal branding coach Aenslee Tanner.
--Don’t let people make assumptions about you: “If you’re not speaking up, people don’t know you have ideas and opinions. They’ll assume you’re in agreement with the group, and that might not be the case! Even though we intellectually know people have different learning, processing, and communication styles, we still tend to judge people’s participation and leadership capacity based on how much the contribute verbally in the workplace. By not speaking up, you’re denying others your ideas and contribution, as well as denying yourself an opportunity to grow and use your expertise for the good of the organization,” Buelow points out.
--Opinons are valed in the workplace: “To stand out at work you need to be seen and heard, the worst thing you can do for your career is be invisible. Even if what you have to say is not the most brilliant, it’s better to speak up. Before you go to a meeting spend a few minutes planning on what you might say, be prepared to speak up and have some talking points with you should you doubt yourself in the moment,” says career and executive coach Kathi Elster, coauthor of “Mean Girls at Work, Working with You is Killing Me, Working with You Isn’t Working for Me.”
How Speaking Up Will Help Your Career
--You voice is an asset: “Speaking up will definitively help your career because your opinion adds value and it gives others the ability to see your brilliance, individuality and creativity. It also displays initiative and courage. If you are planning to be elevated and expand your career then these are skills and characteristics that you will need to showcase,” explains Jefferson.
--It proves you can lead: “It can help if you are on a leadership track and demonstrate that you are thoughtful and willing to put your neck on the line for ideas you believe in (or disagree with). Speaking up also involves asking good questions. Doing so shows that you have critical thinking skills. If done well, smart questioning can facilitate progress and constructive dialogue… both of which are important leadership skills,” explains Buelow.
How to Share Your Opinion
--Think before you speak: “Anytime an opinion is to be shared, it should be carefully thought out, specific and clear. It should also be done respectfully and in a manner that does not come across as condescending and being a know-it-all,” advises Jefferson.
--Have the facts: “Develop your opinions and ideas thoroughly enough to be able to explain the thinking behind them. That doesn’t mean to go on the defensive, but to have the data and background ready to share to support your opinions,” says Buelow.
--Talk one-on-one too: “Making your voice heard isn’t just about talking in meetings; it’s about forging relationships and communicating through methods that show you at your best,” says Buelow. “Make a point of having short one-on-one conversations with peers and mentors on a regular basis, perhaps debriefing after a meeting (not venting!) or talking about a topic that will be on a future agenda. Form relationships so they think to ask you your opinion, instead of you always having to initiate.”
Should You Couch Your Opinions?
--Tread carefully: “Disclaimers should be done very cautiously, as you don’t want to appear like you’re lacking confidence or apologizing for speaking up. That said, it’s sometimes easier to share and for others to hear if we provide a bit of context or acknowledge that a thought is provocative or still forming. For instance, ‘Here’s my opinion, based on what I’ve heard…’; ‘From what I can gather…’,” suggests Buelow.
Buelow adds, “After you’ve shared your opinion, ask ‘What do you think?’ That shows that you’re inviting further exploration of the subject and not attached to being right. Avoid ‘for what it’s worth,’ ‘I don’t know, but…’ and other phrases that discount your opinion. It’s important to be confident while still showing that you’re open to influence and dialogue.”