In my work as a union representative, I’ve often noticed how some of the most outspoken among us will be far less vocal when placed in front of those actually making decisions. Speaking truth to power is something many people like to think about doing, but when given the opportunity, they retreat and leave what needs to be said, unsaid.
You may feel that second guessing decisions or positioning yourself in contrast to those in power will leave you in a bad spot. And this could very well be reality. Many people in our lives don’t appreciate being challenged and often lack the self-awareness to not take offense to this type of questioning.
To this I ask you, is it better to simply cope in a situation that you know to be wrong, destructive (to people or organizations), or inappropriate? Is it really better to just trudge through and continue contributing to a group or organization that you have concerns about? Will you continue to use your talents and abilities to promote something you don’t agree with?
Those are difficult questions, and not always easy to answer in the context of paying bills, raising a family, or saving for retirement. We often fear losing what we have and losing what is familiar.
But what if familiarity is a bad thing for you and your colleagues?
It can be easy and tempting to allow yourself to give in to an argument of powerlessness, to not attempt to make changes because you feel there is no way you could influence change in your workplace. Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself that the issues that concern you are not large enough to raise, or would be too difficult to overcome, so you just tough it out.
But work shouldn’t simply be about bearing down and toughing it out. A better approach is to become engaged, see the issues from multiple perspectives, and then map a solution together with your coworkers to help drive positive change.
You will likely encounter resistance from some due to their self-interest, ideologically based beliefs, plain old ignorance, or perhaps all of the above. But if you feel that your criticisms and solutions are just and true, then have the confidence to say so. Don’t leave it to someone else.
We are often quick to praise those who speak truth to power but underestimate our own ability to do so. Don’t be afraid to have an impact! By speaking up and taking a stand, you can make a difference.