It is critical to speak up at times although it’s scary as well – Pallavi Pinakin

Taking a stand, whether for yourself or someone else can be hard. Most people find it tough to speak out and risk confrontation – especially at the workplace. While it may seem easier to simply avoid all conflict, taking a stand has the potential to change things for the better.

Being disrespected, overlooked or wrongly blamed takes a silent toll by increasing stress and anxiety. By making your views heard at the right forum, you can improve your situation, empower yourself and boost personal wellbeing.

In other situations, the presence of injustice may not impact you personally. Maybe a colleague is belittling one of your team members. Perhaps some of your peers have the tendency to crack offensive jokes about a certain community or gender.

Besides affecting the wellbeing of targeted team members, these types of injustice also create a toxic office culture, undercut team spirit and drag down productivity. Taking a stand can spark revolutionary changes in the workplace.

At the same time, it’s important to realise that speaking up comes with certain risks. Many teams are rife with politics, making it tough to predict how people will respond or who would support you.

Also, you don’t have complete control over the way in which people might interpret your actions. It’s possible that you will be labelled ‘difficult,’ ‘aggressive,’ ‘troublemaker’ and so on. The chances of this happening increase if you are a woman.

To sum up, speaking out at work is scary, uncomfortable and risky. However, it can also be deeply worthwhile and rewarding. Here are seven strategies to help you take a stand.

RESCUE YOURSELF Don’t wait around for others to come to your aid. Be your own biggest advocate. As Maya Angelou famously said: “I not only have the right to stand up for myself but I have the responsibility. I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me if I won’t stand up for myself. And once you stand up for yourself, you’d be surprised that people say: ‘Can I be of help?’”

CHOOSE WISELY Pick your battles carefully. Each person has a certain ability to tolerate the negative behaviour of others. This makes sense up to a point because it may not be worth the time or effort to respond to matters of minimal importance, or small slights that roll off your back.

But you must realise where to draw the line. If the issue escalates and begins to disturb your peace of mind or damage your sense of self-respect, then it’s time to speak up. Pay attention to your own instincts because no one else can make that decision for you.

POSE QUESTIONS If you’re a newbie or naturally reticent person, speaking up can be especially nerve-wracking. A good way to get started is by asking smart questions.

For example, if you see a certain team member being ignored during a meeting despite being the expert on the topic, you might say: “Didn’t Amal handle many similar projects last year? Do you have any useful insights, Amal?” This way, you get to make your point in a non-confrontational manner. Once you feel more confident, you can begin sharing your thoughts more directly.

BE EFFECTIVE When it comes to deep or longstanding issues, it’s crucial to speak up strategically. Don’t lash out in the heat of the moment, driven by anger or frustration. To be effective, you will need to take a more thoughtful approach.

Emails and texts are notoriously confusing since there’s too much scope for misunderstanding. So it’s best to have those conversations in person. Choose a setting that you think will yield better results – viz. a one-on-one discussion or team meeting.

SEND A MESSAGE Establish the message you want to send with care and be crystal clear. What exactly is the issue, what changes are you proposing, what are the potential benefits from these changes and so on.

As you craft your message, be sure the focus isn’t only on ‘I, me and myself.’ To get others on board, you will need to widen your emphasis to include the impact on the team and/or the broader organisation.

PRACTISE ALOUD Once you know exactly what you want to say, it’s a good idea to practise your argument out loud. Do it in front of a bathroom mirror or ask a friend to be your audience. Saying the words over and over again will give you the confidence to express yourself clearly and with conviction on that day.

Be careful not to sound overly apologetic because this can make it seem as if you are guilty or lacking in confidence.

KNOW THE SPILLS People who speak up at their workplace are unlikely to win any popularity awards. Over time however, their courage and conviction will gain them the respect of their colleagues. This will certainly hold you in good stead if you are (or aspire to be) a leader at work.