1 in 2 Employees Feel Like They Can't Speak Up at Work — Here's How to Find Your Voice

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 23, 2024 at 5:31PM UTC

At least half of employees feel like they are unable to speak up at work.

It’s natural to have anxiety about this — we worry about how we’ll be perceived, we may fear that we’ll say the wrong thing or we’re not even sure if it’s our place. Perhaps we hate being the center of attention and aren’t sure we have anything meaningful to contribute.

But no matter how much it terrifies you to speak up, it’s important to make an effort to do it. When you DO take that leap, you could contribute more meaningfully to your organization. You’ll also show your capability to your manager and colleagues. You might even be recognized for your efforts through praise or promotions. Plus, when you don’t keep your ideas to yourself, you’ll feel more valuable and valued. So, how do you find your voice?

1. Leverage nonverbal cues.

Articulating your perspective doesn’t necessarily mean vocalizing your views. Try using nonverbal cues to demonstrate that you agree — or disagree — with someone else. Offer an encouraging smile. This is a good way to get started, although this shouldn’t be ALL you do to get your opinion across.

2. Do your homework.

It’s more nerve-wracking to speak up when you don’t feel prepared. The solution? Prepare! Take some notes on your ideas, even if it’s during a meeting. Come up with evidence to support your position. Facts will go a long way in helping you feel more confident. You might even practice speaking up in advance of a meeting or presentation so you get used to it.

3. Look for solutions.

Employers value employees who come up with solutions to problems. So, rather than searching for something — anything — to say, focus on solving problems that are interfering with the organization’s success. It doesn’t have to fall within your precise job description, either. If you contribute to improving an area or closing a gap that is not within your domain, you will come to be known as a team player.

4. Find the right moment.

One of the reasons why it might feel intimidating to speak up is because you’re having trouble finding the right time to do it. If you’re in a room (either literally or metaphorically speaking) with louder voices, this can be challenging. 

While you don’t want to interrupt anyone, you can use nonverbal cues to demonstrate that you want to speak. Alternatively, you could seek out your manager after a larger meeting to discuss your thoughts.

5. Support others.

You’re not alone in feeling anxious about speaking up at work. Others may be equally reluctant, and you can help each other by giving them the space to speak to you in private or note it when you see that they want the floor in a larger meeting. Support their ideas, too — this will help you both feel more comfortable participating in group settings.

Ultimately, this will go a long way in helping you AND your peers find your voice.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology, and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece for speaking up at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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