I believe that a big part of staying engaged in what we are a part of is the feeling that we are contributing significantly, and our voice is heard when making suggestions or coming up with ideas. If we are to feel ‘one of the team’, we need to get a sense that our views are respected, listened to, and at the very least considered. Yet many of us are not in the habit of speaking up in the workplace. We tend to stay quiet and let others be heard.
Even those that generally love talking to others, may often shy away from expressing opinions in the workplace. And there are many reasons for this. The most common, possibly, shame that ‘everyone seems to be nodding, let me not show that I don’t get it!’. So instead of asking questions to understand better, or to question whether it is the best choice for the team to make, we stay quiet. Another reason, is that we probably think that what we are thinking about, someone else already thought about it and considered the implications before deciding. Or, perhaps, you feel that you don’t understand enough at this stage to question, and so you let it be for later. But later may be too late. In more extreme scenarios, perhaps you keep quiet because you feel fear – of being judged, reprimanded, or worse, losing your job.
Any of these sound familiar? I think we all experienced one or another during our careers. Yet not speaking up is problematic. It holds us back from shining and showing our full potential, and it even harms the organisation we are a part of. Let me explain.
I often find myself in discussions with people smarter than me. I am almost sure that the ideas that I come up with will be something that they would have considered and accounted for when making decisions on our direction. Yet at times, while expressing these ideas anyway, we manage to fill in gaps, pick up on areas we omitted from the plans, and think about things from a different perspective. Not always, but often enough to make it worthwhile. There are just too many aspects to consider when making decisions. Even the smartest people in the world are likely to miss one or two things. By not speaking up just because of the fear of questioning or appearing silly, actually harms the company we are a part of. Perhaps, some people along the way, too.
Read this article: Finding Your Leadership Voice
By questioning and voicing additional ideas, you can ensure you are contributing towards a better approach of doing something. And your self-value and satisfaction will also go higher with it. Not speaking up on the other hand, contributes to a work environment that may be a breeding ground for fear, hesitation and even bad decision making.
Focusing on the benefits for yourself, speaking up allows you opportunities to:
- Be known and respected. Voicing opinions and questions in the right way will slowly allow your colleagues and supervisors to value your intentions and opinions.
- Strengthen your influence. Having a strong, respected voice in the company allows you to increase your influence across different groups.
- Open up opportunities. Having your voice heard implies that more people get to hear what you have to say. The better you build this the more likely you are to come across opportunities for new experiences, and even career advancement.
- Improve your own performance. By speaking up you receive valuable insights and information you might not have had, otherwise. This may lead to you doing a better job in the tasks that you are working on, making you a better worker, overall.
But perhaps the most valuable of all, is the correlation I find with staying engaged in the organisation you belong to. Because if you don’t care enough to question, or if you feel that you do not have the ability to question, what gives?
Check out this great video on tips to having a great voice and presence