6 Times When You Need to Speak Up at Work

Being an advocate for your own career can be empowering and increase your confidence. There will be times when you need to speak up at work. When this happens you must use good judgment. Although, speaking up can make some people feel uncomfortable, leaving things unaddressed can unravel into bigger problems.

Here are 6 situations when you need to speak 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. Even looking forward to an offer being extended instead, you received a rejection email. Only to find 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 it's ok to be disappointed. Stay positive! Do not view it as a defeat or failure. Think of it as this was not your time or a better position will become available soon.

What You Should Do

Ask for feedback from the hiring manager who interviewed you. Send an email thanking him or her for the opportunity, then request a day/time to meet. Let him or her know the purpose of the meeting so you can work on creating a development plan for your future success.

2) When You’ve Experienced a Microaggression or Bias.

Microaggressions are indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against people of a minority group. They can be subtle or blatant.  For example, "I thought all of you liked Hip Hop music?" or "Is that your real hair?"   Of course, these questions might make you cringe - but take time to assess for intention.

What Not To Do

Do not internalize or allow the comments to be a trigger.  The person may not recognize how their behavior is being perceived.

What You Should Do

Assess for intention and frequency of microaggressions. Remember to pick and choose your battles.

Option 1: If you choose not to explain. Then be direct and respectfully tell your co-worker these types of questions can be viewed as stereotyping and how it makes you feel.

Option 2: Answer the question, but challenge it so you can create cultural awareness by asking, "Why do you assume that I like Hip Hop?" or "Why do you assume this is not my real hair?" Again, you can respectfully and directly address the comment and use it as an opportunity to educate your co-worker(s) on how their questions could be viewed as stereotyping.  Help him or her to understand there are ways to understand cultural differences and minimize the chances of 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 addressed immediately. It’s one thing to have a misunderstanding or miscommunication, it's another if the behavior is intentionally disrespectful.

What Not To Do

React with anger. Your best course of action is to remain calm and rational.

What You Should Do

Use good judgment to decide if the incident calls for mediation. If so, ask HR or a Manager to participate as a mediation witness. 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. Also, be mindful that your intention to be direct may not have the outcome you were hoping for.

4) During Your Performance Review

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

Ask for want you want. 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, 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 with a less than desirable work ethic who will take the credit for others' work. If you've experienced this first hand, it can be infuriating. However, there are ways to handle your idea stealing co-worker and come out on top.

What Not to Do

Blow up or confront in front of peers, co-workers, or leadership.

What You Should Do

Go to your manager with proof that the idea was yours so it's on record where it originally came from. Next, respectfully have a discussion with your co-worker about what they've done. Then proceed with caution and establish boundaries. Make it known you will be taking precautions to protect your work to ensure 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 piss you off to no end because now your credibility is on the line. So how do you handle it 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 and most importantly, your integrity.

What You Should Do

Explain things clearly. If there is a breakdown in communication, show accountability for your part in the issue. Then seek to understand the other person’s thought process that was responsible for the blaming and address the issue head-on. Offer solutions on how the both of you can proactively work together to prevent further issues from escalating. Get to understand each other's work or communication style. Working through the conflict and establishing boundaries could possibly create a collaborative working relationship.

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

Posted in Career Advice and tagged , .
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Sherry Sims

Founder/CEO of Black Career Women’s Network, Diversity & Inclusion Leader, Career & Professional Development Expert. But my divine purpose is to empower black women to succeed at work. Named one of the top Career Coaches to follow, my career expertise has been featured in multiple publications such as The New York Times, Essence Magazine, MSNBC, USNews, CNBC, and more. I’m also a Careers Expert on Cincinnati FOX19 News affiliate.

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