Why don't you speak up

I have a google alert that notifies me of any news article that mentions ‘speaking up’. I get at least two articles per day that mention the obstacles, consequences, and the outcomes of speaking up. This is usually against an injustice. From afar, we give a head nod to those who put themselves in the crossfire for a higher cause. We deem them noble and brave.

And we like to think we would do the same.

But would we?

Here are some common reasons clients have told me about why they don’t speak up:

The Pleaser

I’m not really sure what to say. Do my ideas have merit?

My feedback makes my boss/colleagues look bad.

I want to make a good impression; better to keep quiet in case I stuff up.

The Wounded

Why would you? The messenger always gets shot.

I’ve had my hand bit before.

My ideas will get stolen by others - I never get any recognition!

I’m just having a whinge.

I always get interrupted.

George talks over the top of me.

I don’t get heard.

My ideas always get shot down.

They ignore me and my suggestions.

My boss is an asshole.

I don’t really respect my colleagues. They are a bunch of assholes.

The Rationalist

There’s too much at stake. I’ve got a family to feed.

It’s not any of my business.

It’s not up to me to fix that issue.

The Apathetic

I can’t be bothered. Nothing changes anyway.

I’m just going to keep my head down and do my job.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care - it’s just a job.

There is plenty at stake of the individual and the organisation when people shut down:

   Innovation stalls.

   Tensions simmer and escalate.

   Productivity declines.

   Careers flounder.

What’s the fix?

There are some individual fixes to address:

   The Pleaser needs to develop confidence and rigour in their thinking and own their value.

   The Wounded can hone their emotional intelligence and process their feelings more productively.

   The Rationalist needs to weigh up the consequences on their soul for compromising their values.

   The Apathetic benefits from a vigorous assessment of their happiness and what their choices are really costing.

There are some organisation fixes too:

   Good team structure with clear flow of communication and accountability.

   A team charter that details acceptable behaviour that demonstrate core values.

   Rigorous attention to culture and signs there are cracks forming.

   A healthy integrated approach to feedback.

   Leadership training that addresses the capacity of the leader to build structure, manage safety, and hone the strengths of the team.

   A regular practice of celebrating successes.

   Acknowledgment of team and individual contributions.

That’s the short list. What are your suggestions for encouraging people to speak up?