Truth to power at work affirms the imperative to speak respectfully, bringing issues to the fore for exploration, discussion, and potential action. If I were to ask you, do you feel safe to share thoughts and ideas at work? What would your response be?
If your answer is yes, and you feel psychologically safe to share your ideas, then you are part of an amazing workplace culture where truth to power at work is an accepted way of being, doing and relating. If your answer is no and you fear consequences for speaking up, then know that speaking up and out is never easy but can be done with great skill.
The cost of voicing a perspective or an opinion at work can have personal and professional consequences. As human beings, we want to belong. The notion of rejection, reputational damage, or implication for job loss often prevents us from speaking. The cost of silence can be detrimental not just to individuals but to the organisation (Reitz & Higgins, 2020). For example, in the 1990s, Korean Air had more plane crashes than any other airline. Why? Because co-pilots did not challenge their pilots. The reason for this was the Korean hierarchical culture (Gladwell, 2013).
This week, I was fortunate to work with an incredibly courageous group of individuals who openly and respectfully asked challenging questions whilst exploring thought-provoking workplace situations. What made this process possible? An environment with clear boundaries, trust, mutual accountability, and respect. It was one guided by Dr. Tim Clark’s “Four Stages of Psychological Safety – Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation” (2020) which stipulates the importance of:
1. Inclusion Safety 2. Learner Safety 3. Contributor Safety and 4. Challenger Safety
Leading self and others, skillful communication, and being open to learning are some of the ways we can confidently and respectfully engage in the workplace. “To be interested in others is more than a technical skill, it involves a specific life philosophy—a fundamental curiosity and humility” (Reitz & Higgins 2020, p.127).
As leaders, how do we hold truth to power at work?
- We need to know our ‘’why’’.
- We need to want to listen to all stakeholders.
- We need to be present, always.
- We need to work with a growth mindset and be open to all possibilities.
As employees, how do we hold truth to power at work?
- We need to be clear about our ‘’why’.’
- We need to understand how to manage up and down.
- We need to share our ideas and their value for the organisation’s growth
What are your thoughts?