How often have you wanted to say something at work, but held back because you were worried about the consequences or unsure of what to say? Maybe you were afraid of stirring up a conflict or losing your job. Maybe you were just discouraged by the idea that your input wouldn’t make a difference.
You’re not alone in feeling this way.
A Harvard Business School study found that half of the employees at the multi-national companies they surveyed were afraid to speak up at work or challenge traditional ways of doing things. That creates a big loss for business and a potential setback for you.
If you want to impress your boss and have a satisfying career, it’s important to learn how to overcome your doubts and fears and find a way to speak up.
Use these tips to master speaking up in meetings and around the office.
Overcoming Your Fears
Fear causes us to exaggerate potential negative consequences. While in our minds making that suggestion to the boss that he doesn’t want to hear results in him screaming in our faces and firing us, the reality is probably far less dramatic. Even if what you have to say doesn’t win you any popularity contests, it will most likely be met with rationality and calm. Most people react far better than we expect them to. In fact, many managers and bosses value employee feedback about what customers are really thinking and how corporate policies play out in the real world.
Make yourself an important asset by contributing wisdom and expertise:
- Think long-term. It’s human nature to give more weight to the resistance or embarrassment which could happen right away rather than the distant potential rewards that could lie ahead. Keep in mind what there is to gain, like higher self-esteem or a leadership role.
- Act quickly. Chiming in right away at a meeting has its advantages. There’s less opportunity for anxiety to build and it’s easier to bring up new ideas when the topic is under discussion.
- Plan ahead. Fight shyness by being prepared. Scan the agenda for one or more issues and research them ahead of time.
- Ask questions. Even if there isn’t much to say about the subject matter that is being discussed, you can still participate. Show interest by asking questions. Voice support and agreement.
Have you silenced yourself because previous proposals have rarely seen the light of day?
These steps may help you have more impact:
- Stay positive. Don’t get discouraged. Stay enthusiastic and upbeat. Show off your creativity by presenting innovative approaches that will save time or increase quality. Be willing to try out suggestions from colleagues.
- Work on your timing. A boss may be more open to considering changes if they introduced during the annual departmental retreat rather than a hectic Monday morning staff meeting. Consider the context.
- Develop allies. Identify colleagues who listen attentively and are open to new ideas. Maximize influence by banding together.
There are some situations where it can be especially challenging to be assertive.
Use these tips and be better prepared for such situations:
- Join the team. If you were recently hired, it may feel like the is a mandatory waiting period before anyone begins to take you seriously. On the other hand, this could provide the perfect circumstances for you to shine. The perspective of an outsider may enable you to spot issues that long-timers have grown used to. Tell yourself that this is the opportunity to make a dazzling first impression.
- Communicate with senior management. Many professionals are nervous around the CEO. Brush up on small talk strategies to be prepared for that chance meeting in the cafeteria. Traveling together on that business trip? Look for ways to be useful.
- Handle gossip. Distinguish between innocent chatter and remarks that could be hurtful. Taking the high road will protect your reputation and encourage a healthy work environment.
- Disagree respectfully. Arguing the minority viewpoint can work to your advantage. Demonstrate your tact and bravery by arguing for the underdog . Dissent can even help sort out issues and lead to sound decisions.
Speaking up at work is good for you and for your employer. Discussions spark ideas and create solutions. Plus, letting your coworkers know where you stand enhances your relationships and gives you more clout. So go ahead, take a stand! It might be just the thing to take your career to the next level!
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