There are many apparent reasons not to speak up at work. You might find yourself doubting whether you have the experience, the authority, or the right to offer your thoughts.
We have all felt that way at some point.
In well-established organizations, it’s natural to avoid making recommendations that stray from the way things have always been done. Maybe your experiences or workplace culture have taught you to shrink your voice. The numbers show that a majority of people, 73% of women and 59% of men, have experienced one or more forms of microaggressions at work, including having your competence questioned or being overlooked1.
There’s nothing like a workplace where you don’t feel encouraged, supported, or respected to deter you from openly sharing your ideas. For all these reasons and more, it’s easy to find your voice somewhat stifled at work.
Despite what your inner-thoughts or experiences may tell you, what you have to say is valuable. You are not in the position that you’re in by mistake.
In fact, it was your experience, your desire to seek out something new or more challenging, if not a suggestion or question you had that led you to where you are now. I believe that many of us are in the positions we’re in for a purpose that is bigger than us and our doubts.
When you let those insecurities win by keeping your ideas and inquiries to yourself, you stand in the way of the value that you could be delivering to your team and to the clients or community that your organization serves.
To overcome the doubts stacked up against you, here are three questions that you should ask yourself when everything else is telling you to keep your opinions to yourself.
1. Do I have a unique perspective to offer?
Although what sets you apart can feel like a barrier, your unique perspective met with the diversity of others at the table can drive a productive and innovative conversation.
Consider the processes and approaches in place at your job that, with some reimagining from new and differing perspectives, could take productivity to new levels. The willingness to challenge the status quo is what brings us new service models like groceries delivered to your door in hours and Rent the Runway wardrobe updates delivered for a fraction of retail prices.
Without differing perspectives, industries would remain flat and the technologies that we know and love today would be missing.
What you uniquely bring to the table will shape companies and industries for the better. Only when you learn to trust your voice can you begin to make that impact. So, if you have a different perspective, speak up! The future depends on it.
2. Can I affirm the idea that’s already on the table?
Playing devil’s advocate isn’t the only way to participate in a productive conversation. Plus, being a contrarian with no merit is anything but value added. While I am advocating for speaking up, this is not a challenge to fill empty space just for the sake of being heard. Quality over quantity applies here.
One way to participate in the discussion in lieu of new ideas is to affirm the recommendations of others. Is the current idea on the table practical? Does the new approach that’s been suggested have the potential to deliver results? If so, chime in with your support.
Don’t underestimate the power of affirming your peers and leaders when their ideas have merit. In doing so, you contribute to an environment that rewards new and good ideas.
3. Could my idea be a better solution?
Seriously. Have you ever kept your ideas to yourself only to watch a less-than-impressive idea be implemented? While your team members are finding the courage to think out loud, your brilliant ideas are remaining as thoughts in your head. If you’ve got a practical and feasible suggestion to make, I’d say better out than in.
For every reason you can think of to doubt your voice, there’s all the more reason to let your voice be heard. The reward outweighs the risk in this case. Overcoming your hesitation is the start of you making an impact right where you are.
1 LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company. Women in the Workplace 2019. 5th edition. 2019. https://womenintheworkplace.com