Is the Time Right For You to Speak Out?

Google “songs about money” and entries like “40 best songs about money” and “12 best songs about money. EVER” pop up.

The search results are less abundant if you google “songs about ethics.” No 12- or 40-best lists appear. “Top 10 social and political songs of our times” is as close as it gets.

The pattern of emphasizing economics over ethics plays out in many workplace practices and cultures.

Money has become the end rather than a means to an end.

The pressures to conform to workplace economic norms are everywhere. The axiom “you’re only as good as your last set of numbers” is a performance standard embraced by many bosses. People in boardrooms are reminded “cash is king.” Resumes are packed with claims of “saving over $600k in payroll” and “grew profitability by $10m year over year.”

Suppose, though, you understand the importance of economic performance but aren’t willing to do whatever it takes or embrace the notion the ends justify the means.

Rather, you want to make your company successful AND you want ethics, justice, relationships, and results.

That being your motivation, how do you step in the opposite direction—away from peer pressure, business norms, groupthink, and the power of conformity—to share a perspective that’s contrary to both expected and rewarded workplace behavior?

The first step is to assess your personal tolerance for risk-taking as well as that of your organization. You need to know if you can withstand the pain and opportunity that come with embodying truisms such as speaking truth to power and marching to a different drummer.

“Risk-taking is hard to adopt among leaders,” says Julie J. McGowan, professor at Indiana University, “because recognized leaders have the most to lose and aspiring leaders may be discounted as lacking in knowledge or common sense.”

there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right. ~Martin Luther King

Only you will know if the time is right for you to step up, take the risk, and speak out.

As you consider taking the first step in being different, explore these issues so the action you take is informed, thoughtful, and purposeful:

Is this issue important to only you or do others share it? Will those who think/feel/believe the same speak up after you’ve led the charge, or will your voice be the only one that’s speaking? Are you ready to forge ahead regardless?

How has your corporate culture reacted to those who have challenged the status quo?  Are you prepared to accept the consequences of deviating from the norm? Are you willing to be singled out? To be alone? Are you equipped to lose your job?

Are you willing to be the center of attention? To deal with your position going viral within the company?  Are you ready to be emulated and/or attacked?

Do you have solid solutions in mind? Are you disposed to collaborate with others and devise a solution that integrates the views of many? Are you willing to push for change?

Have you brainstormed possible unintended consequences, both positive and negative, both personal and professional, of the stand you’re championing?

Are you OK, mentally and emotionally, with the possibility of failure? Of success? Will your self-esteem survive the hit? Can your ego withstand the attacks if you fail or the glory if you succeed?

Do you have the will to see it through? Do you have a support system to nurture you along the way regardless of the outcome?

Deciding to speak up or to continue to go along to get along is a personal choice.  Only you can decide if high risk/high reward is your calling or if low risk/low reward represents the boundaries of your comfort zone.

Be thoughtful. Be prepared. Do what’s right for you.

And please be kind as you do it.