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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

The Danger of Silence

A lot has been said about the importance of speaking up to injustices, unfairness, unethical behavior, and more. In the current era of politics and the state of our nation in general, I think the "speaking up" movement has gained momentum...especially with #metoo issues.

But speaking up isn't just about what goes on in the nation. When we apply the actions to our work lives, innate challenges arise.

What if I speak up? Will it cost me my job? Will I be able to find another job if I speak up?

Indeed....challenging questions. And heavy thoughts around what happens if you do speak up. For example, what if...

- someone was doing harm to a student

- someone was doing indirect harm to staff

- someone was embezzling money

- someone was putting incorrect information out publicly about a company, its employees, specific staff members

- someone was intentionally acting in a way that violated company policies

- and what if that someone or someones were at the top of the food chain

In each of these, the potential "reporting" could be career damaging but there are some that are no brainers, at least from my vantage point. We'd always report acts that harm students...right? Or would we?

So why speak up?

It increases confidence. If you speak up, not only do you feel better about what you are doing, but you may also be the one starting the conversation that prompts others to do the same. Maybe others were waiting for someone else to take that first important step. And if you don't, could you be responsible for the outcomes? Might you regret it later?

It will inspire others. Yes, this may come well after the fact, but the person who does speak up, especially when injustice is in play, will help others see the importance of sharing their own well as inspiring those who the injustices were being committed against, especially if they could not speak up for themselves. Speaking up takes courage. I get it. Really, I do.

It can put an end to bullying. Tough term, but let's face it. When others are intentionally intimidating and behaving in a manner that results in everyone around them putting their heads in the sand, something must be done. And that something can start with you.

It promotes awareness. In many situations, there are others in an organization who may feel something is "off" but not know exactly why. Or at times, the behaviors can be so underground that the victims are voiceless and the actions are out of control. The idea of speaking up allows others in an organization to see the behaviors and concerns and begin to address them.

Because its the right thing to do. We all have our moral compass, honed by the experiences we've had, our upbringing, those we associate with. And doing right is about acting, and not necessarily being right. Tapping into our moral compass and really knowing who we are as leaders is what will help us move forward as strong, courageous leaders, as well as helping to improve situations for others.

This is clearly a deeply personal issue - when to speak up and when not to. I don't portend to think its just as easy as Nike's "just do it." But if you reflect on it and feel something was really amiss or if you don't sleep well after observing or learning about an incident, find that trusted colleague (especially if outside of your organization) and determine what the risk factors are and where you can do right.

Check this out. And...hey....happy Monday!

This is an older article that originally ran in Forbes back in 2010. With that said, it is spot on. I love the clarity from which the author pens her thoughts. Speaking up is important. Silence can be deadly.

Take a look and read it HERE.

This week I located a quick video that I think you'll love. It is a TED talk from New York...only 4 minutes long. This clip from Clint Smith highlights the impacts of staying silent, of not talking, or not standing up for intolerance, injustice, inequity.

Take a look.

* Share it.

Can you print these and share them? Notes to colleagues on key topics like speaking up and finding their voices.

Now go slay yet another week!

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