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We’ve all sat in meetings and heard our supervisors suggest things we disagree with. If you’re like most people, you decide to stay quiet.
Well, forget that. Get some guts people!
Mary Gentile, Director of the Giving Voice to Values curriculum at Babson College has written a book, Giving Voice To Values: How To Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right.
It encourages employees to grow some cojones and take a stand. We spoke with her about how to voice your opinions and not get fired.
Here’s what she says to do when you’re about to stand up and talk:
1. Look inward and decide if it’s a moral issue. If your company is doing something that goes against your internal sense of right and wrong, then you should probably say something. And there are many ways to do so; it doesn’t have to be a self-righteous rand or a career-ending move.
2. Think about what will happen if you don’t say something. Think about what you have to gain, rather than what you have to lose. Also consider how big the stakes are not only for you, but for the person you’re confronting too.
3. Make sure the issue strikes a core value. “Many people think, Just because this is my value, that doesn’t mean it’s another person’s value. Who’s to say I’m right?” says Gentile. “But researchers have found that there are a group of core values, or hypernorms, that are widely shared among most people. And it’s a really, really short list, like honesty, integrity, compassion, and fairness.”
Ask yourself if the issue touches on one of these common, widely-accepted values. If not, how can you present the issue in a way that touches on one of them? Gentile thinks all core values are essential in the work place, so even personal morals like compassion are applicable for company issues.
4.Prepare like you would for any big pitch. This shouldn’t be a conversation you just fling together, otherwise it will be difficult for your colleague to take your opinion seriously. In-person conversations are often effective because you’re speaking truth to power; you are physically standing up for what you believe, which can be inspiring.
Here are some things Gentile says not to do:
1. Don’t act on emotions. Give yourself time to think it through. There are situations where you won’t have the luxury of time, but if you do, give yourself the opportunity to cool off and weigh the pros and cons.
2. Don’t react. Instead, anticipate. See patterns and practice responding.
3. Don’t villainize your colleague. Your goal of the confrontation should be to maximise mutual benefits. Being accusatory will only make people get defensive, so be practical and pragmatic instead.
So you’ve thought all this through, and you’re going to give your company a piece of your mind.
What is the appropriate setting for your courageous speech?
“Play up your strengths when choosing the venting venue,” says Gentile. “Some people are good on their feet and can get creative during in-person confrontations. Others are more effective in writing.”
She recalls a situation where an introverted employee disagreed with her CEO. She reached out to him after a meeting, asking him to meet with her before executing the questionable plan. She knew her strengths were in writing, and that her CEO related to analogies. The woman went into the meeting with a planned story and pitch, then followed up with a written analysis of her opinion. This struck a chord with her CEO and she was effective in making him reconsider.
One final tip?
Kill them with kindness. It often helps to offset potential insults with compliments. Soften up your target audience by saying things like “I was inspired when you did this,” and suggest what can be learned from previous good examples from that person. Engage them in the process.
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