I read with great interest an article that appeared on LinkedIn by J.T. O’Donnell titled “Speaking Up Without Getting Fired.”
Part of the reason for my interest, was due to the tremendous response I received regarding my November 7th blog post “Values under pressure: Is there a way to keep your job without compromising your values?”
The post spoke directly to the importance of remaining true to who you are and your values. In essence, you have to stand up for what you believe even if it puts your job at risk.
This being said, as I read Ms. O’Donnell’s article about a young employee who was fired for doing what they thought was right, only to learn the hard way that “right” is in the eye of the manager, I could not help but think of the difference between being right as opposed to getting it right, and how this difference is based upon your personal values.
This is a critical yet seemingly subtle distinction, because it will impact the manner in which you share your thoughts with a boss or for that matter a co-worker.
I am a very qualified employee with valuable experience, a Masters degree in economics and a lot of commitment. During my studies I was always told to view the “big picture” and to work for the success of the whole company. However, when working for an employer, that theory became a problem for me when I realized some managers in higher positions pursued strategies I knew would not lead to success for the company. For example, they violated the corporate strategy in their local actions. Even though I was often right, speaking up eventually cost me my job by those managers who had more power. Eventually, I learned to actually look at the smaller picture and not to be so idealistic as all companies are made of people, and unless we work for a NPO, there’s not one greater goal. But, even now I still have to hold myself back sometimes and try to think less – or not tell everybody exactly what I think. My question to you is this: Is this some sort of over-idealistic hyper-commitment on my part? Or, is there a better way for qualified people with lots of engagement to approach this career obstacle?
If you truly believe in what you are saying or the position you will be taking regarding a particular issue, coupled with a sincere desire to serve the best interests of the company, this will come through in your efforts to share your perspective.
In the above highlighted excerpt of the e-mail that the young employee sent to Ms. O’Donnell, she began with the statement “I have a Masters degree” and “a lot of commitment.” This would tend to indicate that this person is stressing their qualifications and therefore their ability to be right as opposed to getting it right. Once again, there is a world of difference between the two, because with the former you will inevitably come across as a condescending know-it-all.
I think what this young person should perhaps do, is take a step back and ask themselves the all important question: for what is it that I stand and how can I leverage my skills to best “serve” the “interests of others.”
Then, and only then, will she begin to establish the frame of thinking that will enable her to share ideas not from a standpoint of qualifications or expertise, but from the standpoint of a desire to make a difference. By focusing on this last point is what will inevitably open the doors to a truly collaborative exchange, because it is based on intent, and intent is ultimately based upon and driven by your values.
This final point also brings us full circle back to my November 7th article.
When your intent is based upon or driven by your values, you may still find yourself out of a job. While you will have to deal with the challenges of being fired, unlike the young lady from O’Donnell’s article, you will not end up dealing with an internal discourse on what to do or not to do going forward. In other words, when you are true to yourself and your values, you are grounded or centered and as a result you will have an inner peace that will persevere despite your given circumstances at the time. This is what will enable you to pick yourself back up and get back in the game.
In Part 2 of today’s post I will talk about how, after your suggestion has been shot down, you can still make a positive contribution even if you believe that the right course of action is not being pursued by your boss.