Our life coach columnist shares the four questions you should ask yourself when pondering whether to speak up about an issue.
Should I say something or should I just keep quiet? (How many times have you considered this while at work?)
Well, I remember working for a boss that loved to boast about the companies’ “open culture” where everyone could share their ideas and thoughts. I took him at his word. Once in a meeting, I diplomatically shared an issue that every employee was struggling to accept. I did this because behind the scenes, everyone was complaining, whining and basically wasting time expounding on this issue. However, no one had the courage to bring up the issue and discuss it with the boss.
When I began the conversation that day, everyone sighed with relief. Finally, it would be brought out into the daylight and dealt with in a productive manner. When shared, the boss handled the discussion well and treated me with respect for bringing it to the table.
However, a couple days later, things began to fall apart. I was called into a meeting and aggressively attacked. He made it clear that the issue with me was not the information that I had shared that day. The issue with me was the many weaknesses that I possessed (although I had received glowing accolades up until that point).
I look back on that day and wonder about my choice to speak up. Did I make the wrong decision? Well, that depends.
According to the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler, you should ask yourself these four questions when pondering whether to speak up:
- Am I attempting to communicate the message passive-aggressively?
- Is my conscience nagging me?
- Am I telling myself that I am helpless?
- Am I choosing the safety of silence over the risk of speaking up?
If you answer yes to any of these, then you seriously have to consider whether staying quiet is the best solution for your situation.
So, here’s what you have to lose if you decide to keep your mouth shut. Staying quiet means you give approval to your current situation. Staying quiet means that your workplace frustration over the situation could come through in passive-aggressive behavior. Lastly, staying quiet means that the frustration can hit a tipping point for you and your emotions will boil over.
You could explode and say things that you will really, really regret.
Now here’s the most important point to consider:
Choosing to stay mum automatically means that the current situation is not going to change. Giving up control in the situation can lead to feelings of apathy, which then can lead to disengagement at work.
So let’s revisit my story about the boss that touted the open culture. Would I have made the same decision today?