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Why you don't speak up at work

Have you ever noticed strange things happening at your work without daring to question them? I certainly have.

However, over my career I’ve become less worried about speaking out about issues or decisions that don’t appear to make sense, and I believe achieving this mindset can help you in your leadership career.

Why You Need To Speak Up At Work

You appear more proactive, more influential, and gain more respect when you speak up in the right way. Speaking up also helps to relieve the mental stress of feeling powerless about issues at work.

Speak Up At Work - EthicsHaving too many people failing to question the way things are can cause issues because:

  • When you fail to question the status quo, you might be missing out on a better way. It could be that the approach is right and everyone agrees with it, or that people aren’t speaking up. Never discussing more than one way of doing anything is a good way to result in approaches that are less than optimal.
  • Failing to speak up creates an environment which reinforces itself. People in the team feel less empowered to contribute, and before you know it you have a dictatorship!
  • A workplace where nobody speaks up is a breeding ground for unethical decisions. A lack of input into decision making and blind obedience can result in unethical work practices going unchallenged.

Related Post: Toxic Workplaces: How Leaders Can Stop Them.

Why You Don’t Speak Up At Work

So, why don’t people speak up at work? In my experience, there are several reasons:

You Don’t Speak Up At Work Because You think, “Somebody Else Must Have Already Thought of This.”

This is something that I have come across a lot in my career. Sometimes when you are new to a workplace or team, you think to yourself “Somebody must have thought of this issue already.”

Guess again!

If you’re thinking it, but you haven’t seen or heard any mention of it, it is worth asking a few gentle questions before following everybody blindly off a cliff, when you could have said something.

You Believe That You Don’t Have All The Information, Or You’re Stupid and You Just Don’t “Get It.”

Speak up at work - don't get itSometimes things happen in the workplace that seem to make little sense. So, it is human nature to second-guess yourself, especially when nobody around you is saying anything.

Maybe they’re smarter than you… maybe you don’t have all the information.

If you’re concerned that something isn’t quite right, start speaking with your peers before you start asking your own boss what the hell they were thinking. Gently probe into issues – if it starts to become clear that something is amiss, then perhaps you should be speaking up before the train runs off the tracks.

You Don’t Speak Up At Work Because You Are Worried About Losing Your Job.

If you’re too worried about losing your job, you are far less likely to speak up and question decisions. It’s sad to see people sitting silent in a room where something bad is happening because they have either given up or they’re concerned for their jobs.

One of a leader’s greatest attributes is courage. The confidence to say “I can get a job elsewhere if I need to”. This gives you immense power in a workplace, because you no longer fear the consequences of speaking up.

I get it – you have a mortgage, family, it’s hard to find another job. But really, are you content when you let issues or poor decisions pass you by?

To build your confidence to speak up at work, try the following tips.

1. Save Up Some “Screw You” Money.

Piggy bank - screw you moneyThis is enough money that you could live for a few months or longer without needing another job. It enables you to effectively say goodbye to your employer should they do something that is unacceptable.

Related to this is the concept of living within your means. Spending less so you can save more, or not taking on that huge mortgage that means you have to be earning big money.

The goal is not to leave your job. The goal is to ensure that you won’t have a financial problem if you *do* decide to leave.

When you’ve got the financial problem out of the way, you will feel more confident to speak your mind.

2. Build Your Network, Even When Times Are Good.

Networks are useful for keeping in contact with the working world around you. The trick here is to maintain contact with people who might be able to put you forward for a job should you need it.

Don’t wait until you’ve quit to contact your network, do it well in advance and maintain it

The confidence to speak up at work is golden. Out of everyone in a workplace, leaders need to be able to speak up against unethical or bad behaviour or poor decisions.

After all, if you don’t say it, who will?

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What do you think is the secret to speaking up at work? And why don’t people speak up? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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