Home » Nova »

3 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Speaking Out at Work


Did you ever really think about what Charles Darwin meant when he talked about survival of the fittest?

Truth is, it was Herbert Spencer who drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin’s biological ones. The marketer in Darwin liked the sound of “survival of the fittest” and took it as an alternative to “natural selection.”

And we have shuddered ever since.

Think about it. If you’re not the fittest, you go down in the history books as extinct. And no one wants to be with the dinosaurs.

Modern research indicates that it’s not superiority over another in competition, but the ability to survive dramatic changes in environmental conditions, that indicates fitness.

OK, if adaptability is the key to success then it should be easy to speak out when change is needed, right?

The core answer is “Yes” with a “but” attached to it.

Here is where the basic fear of speaking out at work comes from:

It’s about the little kid who got yelled at, or worse, when you spoke out when you were three or nine or eleven.

If it was difficult as a child to disagree with a parent, it’s often difficult to tell the boss what you really think or feel.

I often watch colleagues in meetings text each other about what’s going on while holding back speaking out for fear of being reprimanded in front of others.

The fear here, being shunned. Worse, being fired.

When you were little you depended on others for food, shelter and protection. You knew instinctively that if you were sent out to fend for yourself you would most likely starve to death and that would be the end of the story.

Deep down, way deep down, that fear of abandonment and starvation bobs up at work when there is a chance of being “thrown to the wolves”.

Here is how to handle this basic universal fear:

  • Observe: Pay attention to what triggers you when you disagree with someone in a place of authority at work. Notice the emotions that bubble up to the surface. Do you become angry and stuff the anger? Do you make jokes as a way of handling your anxiety? Do you smile and placate to stop the conversation?
  • Understand: Take the time to connect the dots from the present authority figure with someone in your family when you were a kid. Pick a situation that is similar and notice how elements of that past situation are being put into motion now.
  • Transform: This is when you can “clear your past to free your future” by taking a new tactic for communicating. Remember, you can speak out. Before you do, practice by yourself or with another to make sure you don’t sound like the angry or hurt little kid.

Most of our fears come from outdated, ingrained behavior patterns from childhood or further back through the generations. Join the #patternpioneers movement; adaptation is the true survival mechanism of the fittest.

Speak out to your boss. Make more effective decisions by using the OUT Technique just described. Darwin would be proud of you.


Related Posts

  • No Related Posts