Being an advocate for your own career in every aspect can be empowering! There will absolutely be times when you will have to speak up at the work. When it happens, you must use good judgment for when and how to raise your voice. Although, speaking up can make some people feel uncomfortable, leaving things unaddressed can unravel into bigger problems.

So, here is a list of times and situations when you need to speak up, stand up and communicate with power!

1) When you’ve been passed over for a promotion

You were so excited about the opportunity and knew you were a strong match. Looking forward to an offer to be extended only to receive a rejection email then found out that one of your co-workers was offered the position with less experience and tenure.

What not to do
Don’t get upset, but its ok to be disappointed! Stay positive and do not view it as defeat or failure. Think of it this way, it was not your time or a better position will become available soon. 

What you should do
Ask for feedback from the manager who interviewed you. Send an email thanking him or her for the opportunity, then request a day/time to either meet or schedule a call to discuss feedback from your interview so you can work on creating a development plan for your future success.

2) When you’ve experienced a microaggression or bias.

Microaggressions can be subtle or blatant. If a co-worker makes a stereotypical comment.  For example, you’re really not black.  Is that your real hair? I thought all of you listened to Hip Hop!

What not to do
Don’t take it personally! The person may or may not recognize how their behavior is being received.

What you should do
Option 1: If you chose not to explain. Then tell your co-worker respectfully,  these questions are based on stereotyping and they make you feel uncomfortable to answer.
Option 2: Answer the questions, but challenge their questions by asking them a question. Why do you think I’m not black? Why do you think this is not my real hair?  Why do you assume that I like Hip Hop?  You can respectfully address the underlying issue head-on by enlightening your co-workers on how their questions are viewed as stereotyping. Help them to understand there are ways to understand cultural differences without possibly offending or judging others.

3) When your co-worker or peer is disrespectful or rude

If a coworker is blatantly rude or disrespectful, their behavior must be address immediately. It’s one thing to have a misunderstanding or miscommunication, another if it is intentional.

What not to do
React with anger. Your best recourse of action is to remain calm and rational.

What you should do
Use good judgment to decide if the incident calls for mediation to include HR or a Manager. If the behavior was a minor infraction, make the call to address the person one on one and come to a respectful understanding.  Make sure to document, then notify your manager about the incident and conversation for the record.

4) During your performance review

Your performance review can be a great time to put everything out on the table. From performance, career pathing, salary increase, to professional development etc. Maximize the opportunity to get what you need to further your career success. If you were expecting a favorable review to receive a raise or further responsibly and it didn’t happen can be a letdown.

What not to do
Show up for your review unorganized, with a negative attitude, defensive or entitled.

What you should do
Be prepared with a list of accomplishments for the year, exceeded goals, completed training or projects, recognition etc. Show that you deserve a raise or recommendation for other projects or internal opportunities to increase your visibility. If your performance needs improvement, remain positive and coachable. Ask for feedback and most importantly, speak up and ask for support for your professional development and growth.

5) When a Peer or Co-Worker steals credit for your work

Yes, there are dishonest people who do not want to do the work but take the credit. If you’ve experienced this first hand, it can be infuriating. But there are ways to handle your idea stealing co-worker and come out on top!

What not to do
Blow up when you find out they stole your idea! Stay calm and strategize. 

What you should do
Go to your manager with proof that the idea was yours, just so they will know where it originally came from to note it!  Then respectfully have a discussion with your co-worker to make them aware that you know what they did.  Now proceed with caution while working with them and let them know you are taking precautions to protect your work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

6) When you are the target during the blame game.

There is always a coworker or manager that is more than willing to throw someone else under the bus to save themselves. When this happens to you, it can make piss you off to no end because now your credibility is on the line.  So how do you handle when the blame game is being played on you?

What not to do
Blame others too, or say negative things about the employee that’s doing the blaming. Keep your cool.

What you should do
Explain things clearly, if its a breakdown in communication,  show accountability for your part in the issue. Then seek to understand the person’s thought process that was responsible for the blaming and address the issue head-on and how you both can proactively work together to keep any issues from escalating.

Speaking up at work can be empowering if its done is a strategic way.  You have power and it’s in your voice!  Use it and do not be afraid to protect yourself and the career you are working hard to build! 

Posted in Career Advice, Professional Development, Work Ethic, Workplace and tagged , .

Sherry Sims

Sherry Sims is the Founder of Black Career Women's Network, Influencer, Career Strategist and Speaker with a passion for educating black women on how to manage their careers with clarity and confidence. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @bcwnetworkceo

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