Rights and Responsibilities When Speaking

communication Jul 01, 2020

When we are at work, we have the right to speak up on topics we have knowledge of and to share our opinions on things that impact us. As with any right we also have responsibilities to speak up when we see a problem and to listen to others who have expertise and ideas of their own. This can be a fine line for many people, particularly for women. It’s important to remember that we were hired for a reason and we need to speak up as needed.

Here are 4 times we need to speak up:

  1. When we are the expert. Too often a woman expert will let men speak on their topic of expertise because they jump in first or someone turns to them. Women need to get much more comfortable stepping in and saying “From my experience in…..” or “Based on my experience…” or even “In previous positions I have seen…” 
  1. When we see an error or problem. Each of us has unique experiences and we may have learned a lesson that others haven’t. We need to flag issues to give decision makers the information they need to do what’s right. This doesn’t mean we have to publicly embarrass someone. It could be a quick note or conversation with the person or the applicable manager to say you have seen something that concerns you. Making it about the business issue will help keep it from becoming an attack on a person. 
  1. When we are asked our opinion or a question. Women will too often defer when asked directly about something. It may be that they are afraid to disagree with the opinion of a senior person. You were asked because someone wants to hear you, so take the opportunity. 
  1. When we have new information. There are times when in the course of our jobs we learn something new, see new data, or otherwise find new information. If this information has bearing on current activities, pending decisions or planned changes we need to get it in front of the right people. It can be easy to say “it’s not my place to say anything” or “it’s not my job so I would be meddling in other’s work”. Knowledge is only useful if it is shared and acted upon.

 Here are 4 times when we need to listen instead of speaking:

  1. When someone is having an emotional reaction. People will react differently to change and sometimes that reaction is emotional. When that happens, we need to listen to them and let them have their chance to speak. 
  1. When another is sharing their knowledge. We want to be heard when we are sharing our knowledge. We need to provide the same opportunity to others. This has two advantages; we get new information and perspectives as well as establishing a culture of letting people share their knowledge. This helps women when we want to be recognized for our knowledge. 
  1. When we are given new information. When someone comes to us with new information, we must take the time to hear them out. They may have access to information we don’t, and we will make better decisions and can minimize risks when we get multiple perspectives. Again, we want to be heard so extend that same right. 
  1. When it would do harm to another. Gossip and public criticism can do great harm. Avoid correcting people in public unless it is a safety issue or a safe place to do so and is done with care and empathy. No one wants to be berated or belittled, particularly in public. When dealing with individual issues be kind and discreet. 

When it comes to the right to be heard it is important that we take responsibility for how we speak up. We need to speak up about issues, risks, or errors in a professional and respectful manner. If we have knowledge, we need to share it for the greater good. The other side of that coin is making sure we are kind and respectful to people. Praise in public, correct in private. For women to be heard for our expertise we must be assertive in our communication to avoid being too passive to speak or too aggressive towards others. If we remember the times to speak and the times to listen, we will be well on our way to being heard.

To learn more about being heard for your expertise check out the new course "Be Brilliant & Be Heard, even when you are the only woman in the group"


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