Clear Comm Consulting

Speaking Up At Work

Jul 1, 2021

If you have a good idea, a complaint or something that could fundamentally change the course of your workplace, hold on! First it’s important to understand HOW you should present that idea to give yourself the best chance of success. The stakes? People who do this well go on to gain respect, promotions and even greater opportunities. Those who miss the mark get sidetracked, ignored or could find themselves out of work altogether. I think you know which side of the equation you’ll want to land.

Some of what I’m about to share is inspired by Adam Grant’s book Originals. If you have not read it, please do. (Think the best of Malcolm Gladwell-style storytelling and research if you are unfamiliar with Grant. Well worth your time.) In this book he features a chapter about speaking truth to power and the correct ways to navigate those sometimes-turbulent waters.

This has been a favorite topic of mine for years and I often center it around people who claim a disdain for “office politics.” You’ll hear them say they won’t speak up because they don’t want to get involved in an inner-office scuffle. So, you’ll instead be happy keeping things as they are? No. Let’s look at the smart way to do this:

Establish Your Credibility: Speaking up when you are an unknown entity rarely works. Instead, establish your credibility by showing you have the bigger picture in mind and not just your own advantage, demonstrate your thorough research and be open to feedback. Leadership is title agnostic when a good idea comes forward. If you are already known as a solid team member the chances of your new idea getting traction increase.

Admit Your Flaws: Adam Grant talks about audiences being far more receptive when the presenter admits his or her ideas are imperfect. The barriers fall away and suddenly we’re all working on the problem together! Too often I see people trying to polish an imperfect idea when being straight with the audience would get them a much warmer reception.

Having a Supportive Boss: The workplace is a grand social experiment in action. Always. Knowing that, it helps you immensely to have a supportive boss when you speak up. You very likely won’t be in the room every time your idea is discussed, but your boss may be there. If your boss has your back the chances for success increase.

Repetition: By the time you present your big idea you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while, but your audience is hearing it for the first time. Get used to the idea of needing to repeat your new idea many times before it really catches on. Leaders need to be comfortable with repetition. It comes with the territory.

Too many good ideas get lost because presenters ignore the above. Use these guideposts to set a course for clarity and success.

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

Advice on How to Connect in Business