Speak Up at Work Without the Fear of Retribution

In an ideal world, leaders listen to their employees when they share their knowledge of the business. However, studies of US employees suggest that most employees are afraid to voice their thoughts.

Fear of speaking up is detrimental to organizations. The culture of stifling freedom of expression is causing dissatisfaction among employees. It’s leading to absenteeism, reduced performance, and non-productive work behavior.

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Factors that contribute to workers remaining silent include:

  • Supervisors and leaders consistently providing negative feedback 
  • Leaders shooting-down new ideas or ignoring feedback are perceived as a dissenting voice 
  • Fear of demotion or loss of job
  • Raising undue attention to oneself when making suggestions.
  • Employees see that there is no fair application of employee feedback 

It is vital that organizations have an open-door policy, and leaders are taught listening skills, so employees are encouraged to express their opinions. Here are some ways for employees to speak up at work without fearing retribution:

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1. Build Trust

Show your employer that you are competent. Leaders trust employees who are good at their work.

2. Speak Up As Early As Possible

Provide feedback as soon as possible as conflicts and frustrations are more likely to build-up and lead to abusive responses from managers. Speak up early to avoid being ridiculed, or spoken to rudely, or receiving silent treatment.


3. Control Your Emotions

Act professionally, adopt a cooperative attitude, and remain in control of your emotions. Tell your employer that you want to create joint value, and state your point of view directly and constructively. 

4. Present Facts

Have all the facts at your disposal. Speak with confidence when mentioning your idea’s merits, but ask your employer’s view of your proposal. Listen to their criticism objectively and show respect for their viewpoint.

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5. Be Diplomatic

Understand that the balance of power lies with the employer. Use the trust that you have built up with your employer wisely.

Approach leadership diplomatically to find solutions to any conflict. A humble demeanor can achieve much more than an arrogant one.

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6. Show Loyalty To The Organization When Reporting Misconduct

It is in the company’s best interest to learn about unethical behavior, yet employees worry about being the whistleblower. Learn your organization’s procedures about reporting misconduct. 

Responsibility and accountability should be the ingrained culture of the workplace, but don’t report every small misdemeanor. A good leader will value an employee who is loyal to the organization.

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Harvard Business Review states that though organizations encourage workers to speak freely, supervisors and managers still target employees who speak up. The worker is then labeled as a poor performer. Anonymous reporting is, therefore, common in workplaces where employees fear retaliation.

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