How to Share Your Voice in the Workplace Effectively
We’ve all been there. You have this great idea to propose to your boss that you and your coworker have been working on. You’re at your weekly team meeting and the boss asks if anyone has any suggestions to solve the current problem. You are about to answer… and then you don’t.
Voicing your opinion can be daunting. According to World at Work, 47% of employees wait to share concerns or ideas that might improve an element of the business, because it encroaches on someone else’s turf. But what if I told you voicing your opinion was important? Trust me – this is backed by evidence.
I want to speak up, but is it worth it?
Psychologist Solomon Asch found that 77% of people will sometimes knowingly give an incorrect response in order to “go along with the group.” It may seem like the easiest thing to do, when you may otherwise fear hurting your reputation or even the security of your job itself. Employees fear retaliation. But what do you lose out on?
Studies show that when you speak up, you demonstrate your investment in your work, you promote problem-solving discussions, and even if your suggestion isn’t acted upon, it allows other employees to feel their opinions will be valued. Our team at America = makes engaging during team meetings a priority. We understand how valuable each other’s perspectives are, and we actively create space for everyone to speak up.
Being engaged and contributing your thoughts at work is important. But it’s also important to make sure what you want to say is relevant. If the team meeting is related to your project, it would be an ideal time to share your voice, if you think it’s something your team should know. If the meeting is about a project unrelated to your work, it’s best to let the subject matter expert (SME) take charge of the meeting. This is not to say you shouldn’t add anything – rather, ensure you understand the SME’s work, and speak up when you know you have something constructive to contribute. Asking questions is a powerful way to show you care while also helping your teammates find gaps in their work. Keep in mind, your boss and coworkers aren’t mind readers. If you have something to say, say it!
Voicing your ideas is crucial for problem-solving. When you are in any sort of group setting, it can be tough to speak up. This is often due to diffusion of responsibility, which occurs when people who need to make a decision wait for someone else to act instead. Most coworkers feel more comfortable when they don’t say anything because they feel they haven’t negatively affected the current situation. One thing we do at America = is use a mic. That’s right – a mic! It brings humor to our meetings, which creates a more comfortable atmosphere for our team members to share their thoughts. One of our main goals is to inspire others to take up the mic and share their voice!
Regularly engaging with your coworkers and boss is a sure way to feel more fulfilled at work, as well as be a more valuable member of your team. And the more you speak up, the more comfortable you – and your coworkers – will become with openly sharing ideas and communicating. It’s important to have a workplace in which employees are comfortable sharing their opinions – something behavioral scientist Amy Edmondson has dubbed “psychological safety.” Speaking up helps create this environment, which benefits everyone!
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How to Expertly Speak Up with 3 Easy Tips
While speaking up is important, it’s essential to know when to do it. Not every meeting is good to speak up in, specifically if there is no reason for you to do so. Follow these three easy tips to effectively share your voice:
Tip 1: Do your homework
Before you recommend an alternative solution to your boss, do your homework. If you don’t have anything to back up your point, your voice won’t be as effective. To make this easier, before your meeting, jot down 3-5 points or facts that prove your alternative solution is the better choice. Explain why this solution is better, how you can implement it, and how your employer benefits from using this solution.
Before we started America =, our team traveled the country and lived in many different cities. We met numerous people who graciously invited us into their communities. One thing we noticed from every place we entered was the innate goodness of the people we encountered. This inspired us to go back home and figure out a way to promote these amazing people. So, we went back and did our homework, researching ways to bring to life what we found in every city. What came next was the creation of our clothing brand America =, a social movement empowering everyone to share their voice. The point is: always do your homework, come up with a solution, and you never know what can come out of it.
View our collection of t-shirts and see what America = has for you!
Tip 2: Don’t expect everyone to agree with you
I can’t say this enough to people who wish to share their opinion: you have to understand that not everyone will take your side. And that’s okay, because it promotes good conversation and allows you to figure out a solution together.
If someone doesn’t agree with you, try not to be defensive. Listen to their point and try to understand where they are coming from. Maybe you could be clearer on your own intentions. Take feedback as advice that can help you in the future.
There may be times where you know someone is clearly questioning your position without knowing what they’re talking about. Again, don’t be defensive. Instead, react to their opinion with questions and ask them to elaborate. There will be coworkers who simply don’t want to agree with you, and that’s alright. If you are confident in your position and support it with facts, your coworkers and boss will know who is right in the situation.
Tip 3: Take baby steps
Every time you have a meeting, make it a goal to step out of your comfort zone at least once. Speaking up is a process, and it takes time. Focus on improving and making baby steps to gradually share your voice more often.
For example, let’s say you’re in a meeting, and it’s one where you normally don’t speak because the topic is outside your area of expertise. Next time, ask a question about something you don’t quite understand. The SME will want to answer you - because who wants to miss a chance to show off how knowledgeable they are? Each meeting, work on saying one more thing than you did last meeting (but make sure it’s relevant). It may take time, but it will help you become more confident and strengthen your voice in the workplace.
Your Voice is Important and Valuable!
Speaking up in the workplace can be scary, but it’s crucial to your growth in and outside of the workplace. Everyone is different, so it may take time to adjust and figure out what works for you. If you find yourself having trouble with voicing your thoughts, seek help! Enlist a mentor or trusted colleague to help you practice. There are tons of people and even organizations that are willing and wanting to help. Our non-profit partner, The Time Entrepreneurship Foundation and the Honor Loan Program, is one such group that provides education and mentorship to individuals of all ages, and a fantastic place to seek assistance.