Before coming to Denmark, I worked for a Chinese company in Shanghai. The overall attitude in this place was “you don’t get to have an opinion.” For younger team members in particular, it was expected that we would have to go with the flow of the company and accept everything as it was–whether we agreed or not. This is largely due to a high power distance culture. Let’s just say I learned this the hard way.
In the professional world, the ability to work as a part of a team is highly valued and poor team work skills won’t get you many job interviews. We value group consensus and harmony, but is there such thing as too much of a good thing in this case?
Christian Ørsted, author of Lethal Leadership, says yes. In Denmark, we have a low power distance culture so it should be easy for employees to speak up, right? Not so much. Here, not wanting to go against the group consensus is something Ørsted believes holds us back at work. When employees fear being ostracised by the group, their colleagues, they might be afraid to speak up against something that has been decided on. This is when an emphasis on group consensus can be damaging to the working environment. It is lethal in meetings where employees sit silently in dissent for fear of voicing an opinion that goes against the group’s. We want to live up to expectations and demands of the group and we don’t want to let any of our colleagues down so we hide our dissatisfaction in favour of group harmony. No one wants to be the spoilsport.
Five Reasons Why You Should Speak Up At Work
1. your Work Performance Improves
Speaking-up fuels debate and discussions, it is how we can bring about much-needed change. It’s important to discuss issues openly in order to get input, feedback, and invite a new range of perspectives. How often do you start talking about an idea and then suddenly come up with a ton of other ideas to go with it? As you voice your opinion, everyone else can provide input which will influence your plan of action and the final decision.
2. You can Gain Respect
When you voice your opinion consistently, you set a tone for yourself that you are in control of. Those who are not brave enough to speak up with start to respect you more, and those above you will start to notice you more. But with this comes responsibility. Therefore, you have to be careful not to be a loose cannon, uncontrolled in your expression of opinions and unpredictable.
3. Your Influence Is Strengthened
A strong voice strengthens your influence. Many times the one with a consistent voice is the individual that is asked to lead a meeting, start a new project, or is the one that is asked to collaborate with those who have influence to move a project forward. Once your voice is discovered, it can help channel your influence and connect you with the other prominent voices in the company.
4. You move away from ASSUMPTIONS
So often we assume the worst case scenario that would happen if we speak up about something. We rarely predict the best, unexpected opportunities. For example, you never know when you will speak-up in a meeting and have your opinion shared with a higher-up in your company. A consistent voice allows your talent to be discovered and creates opportunities that were previously unknown.
5. It is fun
Being outspoken is a lot more fun than you realise. Embrace it.
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Image from here.