What will people think of me?

You may be surprised at the number of people in organizations who are afraid to speak up.  What we’re hearing is that many people (at all levels) are afraid of what others will think of them.

Many mention a fear that they won’t be liked or that something dire might happen if they raise difficult issues. Others feel that they will be seen as ‘troublesome’ or ‘hard to manage’.  Still others mention a fear of being judged if they advocate for personal priorities or set boundaries around work hours, etc.

Whether it is an entry-level employee who fears speaking up to a supervisor, peers who fear the comments of colleagues, a senior leader who fears communicating with transparency to direct reports, or challenging a Board of Directors – speaking up can be difficult.

Many workplaces promote a culture of transparency, openness, and honesty; some have put processes in place to support safety in speaking up, such as ‘Speak Up’ venues.   But it can take a long time to change the culture and we can’t ignore the personal fears that people still hold.

Last month we provided some one-on-one conversation starters for leaders to engage their direct reports in discussions about speaking up.  Here are some additional, more-personal, tips:

  1. You deserve respect.

Respect is an espoused value in most workplaces and an element of civilized behaviour.  Chances are, people will listen when you speak your mind — and they will respect you for your views.

  1. You are not alone.

If you are afraid of speaking up, it is likely that many others feel the same way.  When you confront your fears and speak your mind, you will give others the power to do the same.

  1. Stay true to your values.

Put your views to the ‘values’ test.  If what you want to say or do is important because it is aligned with your core values, then not saying it or not doing it could be detrimental to your level of workplace satisfaction.  What is the value of being liked by others if you don’t trust yourself to be your own advocate?

An employee engagement survey can be a great way to find out whether your organization’s culture is one where employees are comfortable speaking up. The Centre for Character Leadership’s Snapshot Engagement and Cultural Survey is a simple-to-complete survey that elicits employees’ views on a number of key areas related to engagement including organizational leadership and communication; employee role clarity and satisfaction; and employee support, recognition and rewards.  If you are interested in learning more, please contact me or our Assessment Administrator, Rosanne Wild.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Redmond, MCC