Speaking up at work

It doesn't just happen – creating a workplace environment where people feel confident and comfortable to speak up and be true to their values takes time and consideration. (Listen to author and speaker Simon Sinek on intensity versus consistency.)

In the absence of an open and supportive workplace, there may be times when standing up for what we believe in comes with a personal cost. Ian Coulter, former CocaCola executive says:

We're fearful for our jobs, for our livelihoods, and the conclusion I have drawn is ... it's very simple, we have a set of values but we also have a set of commitment and responsibilities

The motivation to do the right thing is often conflicted with the allegencies and responsibilties we have at work and at home. By speaking up do we want to jeopardise our friendships at work and worse the stability of our family? And if you do choose to make a stand, what might be the personal cost?

Simon Sinek - Intensity versus Consistency : RSA website


In a large meeting with a lot of people where there's kind of strong opinions and you think, 'oh could I have said something' - what would have been the consequences?

And I'm not, I don't think I'm very courageous in that kind of setting, but I have reflected upon why it is that people buy into something and you realize of course that probably eighty percent of the people around the table are thinking the same thing as you but they are also failing to say anything.

Why does that happen? And you get you get caught up in the language, you get caught up in the culture, and you've kind of bought in overtime to that set of values.

So to suddenly stand up and say well this is wrong or such and such you kind of feeling 'well that would be hypocritical for me as well because I've gone along with it'.

So to suddenly kind of pull everyone up short is really difficult. But I think in the end why do we do those things, is because we fearful, we're fearful for our jobs for our livelihoods and the the conclusion I've drawn over the years and meeting many people who get caught up in these things is they've got to pay the mortgage!

It's very simple. They have a set of values but they also have a set of commitments and responsibilities and you could say well they're doing it out of love for their family because they... they could be really courageous at work and then have to face the facts because they get fired, and you know it's a very hard decision to make to stand out like that.


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