It’s said that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Along those same lines is speaking up for yourself at work. Too often, people are afraid to do that, and they can end up shouldering the blame for something they didn’t do, and not getting credit for something they did.
However, if you learn an effective way to speak up for yourself at work, you can achieve a lot and get a lot of problems solved.
1. Document the facts
In the business world, it’s all about what you can prove. Very often, the truth is a matter of opinion; it doesn’t matter what you know to be true, it is what you can prove.
So, when given instructions by a boss, simply write up a short memo or even an email and send it to him/her, and put a copy in your project file. In many companies, a project can take weeks if not months to complete.
If something goes wrong with a project you are working on, it may not be discovered until much later. Will you be able to remember all the details at that later date? If you have everything documented, it will not be an issue.
2. Limit your focus
When speaking up for yourself at work, it is important to be precise on what you’re talking about. Do not ramble on and on and talk about a wide range of issues; focus on one (or a very few) subjects, and stick to them.
Very often, a boss or co-worker will try to change the subject on you, especially if you’re winning an argument. Don’t let them; keep the discussion focused on the point you are trying to make.
3. Be prepared
Yes, it’s the motto of the Boy Scouts, and it also applies to the business world. It doesn’t matter if you’re going in to ask your boss for a raise, a vacation or to defend yourself against charges of improper behavior; pull any notes you need, review them, and try to think of the kinds of questions and/or arguments you are going to be hit with.
If there are similar situations that other people have had to deal with, find out all you can about them, get as many notes as possible, talk to people, and write up all the information they give you verbally.
4. Do a trial run
To avoid getting nervous during a big business meeting, try practicing with a friend or family member. Get together in a place where you feel comfortable, so you’ll feel at ease, and then run through the meeting that you are going to attend.
After going over everything in your outline of information, ask your friend to assess how you did and insist that they be brutally honest. After all, the people in your company are more likely to be harsh than gentle.
5. Develop a thick skin
While it’s important that you stand up for yourself, it is equally important that you do not become too emotional or fly off the handle at the drop of a hat.
If a boss or co-worker criticises the way you do something, do not take it personally and promptly insult them; you will accomplish nothing. If something they say is valid, then ask them to define exactly what they think you are doing wrong, and what you can do to improve yourself.
6. Learn to speak
Some people see this as silly; of course they know how to speak. Just speaking isn’t enough; you have to be able to speak with authority. So, a speech class can help you learn to do that.
Speaking up for yourself at work is key to keeping your record clean and clear, and making sure you don’t pushed out over something that isn’t your fault. In the business world, it truly can be a dog eat dog situation; if you don’t stand up for yourself, no-one else will.