The recent chaos that ensued over Gary Lineker speaking his views on social media highlighted to workers the risks in speaking up at work – especially if your employer feels uncomfortable. Lineker’s words on Twitter led to his suspension from the BBC, which then led to suspension of its football TV output over a chaotic weekend as many of his colleagues joined him in also downing tools.
What can we draw from this story about speaking out about what matters to you in the workplace?
On the one hand we have many employers saying – bring your whole self to work as a way to enable their employees to feel they are fully valued and appreciated, and they should not feel they need to hide aspects about them. Being your whole self at work will mean you are better engaged in your work because you feel a better sense of belonging. But if this means saying and doing things that an employer feels contradicts their guidelines or values, then are we then taking a huge risk on our reputation and ultimately – our career? Do we want to be classed as a ‘trouble-maker’ and not in tune with the corporate messaging, which could restrict our development and progression? But then, what if we feel the guidelines are not reflective of what a modern business should be and are actually out of synch with the same value-statements we see posted on the reception walls – should we stay quiet and not take a risk? I feel there is risk always in speaking up at work – especially if you feel you may not be heard. But we carry a risk if we feel we can’t say what is important to us too.
In the book Futureproof Your Career, I talk about ‘career activism’ which considers how as employees we can bring the issues that matter to us to the workplace. The issues might be to do with things that have a political slant such as with Lineker on refugees, or it may be more about other key issues that are personal to an employee. The issue then becomes – is this a workplace that can absorb your beliefs and actions? Change does start with one person, and they can build a revolution. And in some instances, the organisation will listen and even support. The work done in Vodafone on addressing domestic violence is now part of its policy.
How can coaching help in complex areas like this
This issue of speaking out is complex but is now increasingly part of working life. Especially as we are all considering the integration of new ways of working on sustainability thinking, diversity issues and flexible work. Often employees who feel they can’t speak out may start to disengage with the organisation and eventually leave.
This is where having a coach can be extremely useful. Your coach can offer a space that is confidential, safe and open. Debating the reasons of if, how and when to speak out can be discussed behind a closed door, and your coach can discuss the issue with your own wellbeing at the heart. Your coach can also enable you to discuss the issue with the heat taken out and with no judgement. You will be able to think of a range of scenarios and ideas – and talk them through with someone who isn’t going to raise an eyebrow.
Coaching will enable you to explore all avenues, such as pursuing your goals may be outside the organisation in voluntary work. Or to explore if there are other employees or employee groups that feel similar.
Coaching allows for not just emotional thoughts, ideas and beliefs to flow from a discussion – but offers a practical reflective space to develop actions and practical methods to move forwards, including the methods and ways you can speak out. Your coach will enable you to think about how to construct your messaging and show how you can align (where possible) with the organisation’s values and purpose.
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Blog by Dr Naeema Pasha