We have all been witnesses to varying forms and demonstrations of courage: those who participated in the D-Day Invasion; first responders to acts of violence and destruction; a child and their family as they go through the process of addressing a loved one’s life-threatening illness or condition. There is no doubt that these and many other similar examples demonstrate our amazing capacity to do what needs to be done, no matter the risks, threats and challenges associated with accomplishing the task at-hand.
In the workplace, I have seen a number of examples of courage that demonstrated to me how risky and daring, yet fulfilling it can be to summon the courage to say and do what must be said and done. We have many examples of whistle blowers who put their principles in action by standing up and speaking up for a set of principles they believe are worth the risk of alienation, discrimination and termination. While they may not consider themselves courageous in the same way as those who voluntarily go into harm’s way (military personnel, first responders), they do highlight two key considerations for all of us who are trying to survive and ultimately thrive in today’s workplace.
- Be Honest…with ourselves and with those we work with. Have the courage to tell people how you truly feel and what you really think. You were hired based on your experience and, as a result, your expertise. You are expected to have opinions. Be honest, direct and, of course, diplomatic when you express your opinions and recommendations.
- Speak Truth to Power…telling your staff, your Boss, your Board of Directors, your Customers what you really think is a minefield of risk. I saw this documentary that included a series of interviews with people who served as Chief of Staff to the President of the United States. During the interviews, they talked about mustering the courage to walk into the Oval Office to tell the President what they really thought. It was fascinating! These individuals knew the risk, however, they were motivated by courage to fulfill their duty to tell the truth and speak that truth to power.
In today’s workplace, challenges and risks are all around us, especially as a result of the tenuous nature of getting and retaining a job. It is understandable that we do not want to jeopardize our jobs out of concern that there may not be another one available to us. Yet, it is precisely the fact that we have opinions – reasonable, thoughtful opinions that are valuable to the people in power. This is what makes each of us unique; no one else thinks like us, which is the reason why the people in power want our opinion in the first place. The responsibility is ours to have the courage to give our opinion, fulfilling our duty to be honest and speak our truth.