Ever heard the saying, "better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than speak up and remove all doubt?"
How many times have we sat through a meeting and thought, "I know the answer to this problem," but keep quiet. Maybe the team thrashes around a bit and ends the call. The problem remains and the opportunity to resolve it has passed.
Why are we quiet?
Why not speak up?
Theorizing, new employees may be intimidated by the largest technical workforce in the industry. Let's face it, the smartest, most innovative engineers work in my industry. This can be daunting and intimidating in itself. Some might think, "What can I tell them, that they don't already know? These are smart people."
Employees might be afraid of losing their job. A contrary position or approach to the problem may be viewed as confrontational. Perhaps they think, "what if my idea is not well received?"
Sometimes internal colleagues can be our own worst enemy. We shoot down new ideas, disregard concepts as "not invented here", and are often very critical of different approaches. Colleagues may be willing to share these ideas in meetings, but get shot down. Their response might be to cease sharing or speaking up - after all, how many times are we willing to get "shot down" in public settings? Dominant personalities in the business setting will override others, especially if the others do not speak up.
As a result of industry reductions in force, cutbacks, and lean management strategies, staffers are increasingly being asked to shoulder more responsibility. That means speaking up and making decisions. We have to be courageous and share what we know or offer solutions. The industry is counting on us.
At every level, we need to be open to suggestions, ideas, and approaches. One technique we can do is solicit feedback from others in a meeting. Our colleagues may be ready to speak, but cannot find an opportune time to insert themselves into the conversation. As a lead or meeting chair, we might ask quiet attendees for their input. Often, their insight will result in moving the discussion forward.
We go to the movies and hear "Silence is Golden." Certainly that is true at times, however in a business setting, our voices need to be heard.
It might just be others are talking around a problem, but your voice needs to be heard!
More info: Nilofer Merchant has a great post on Speaking Up in the Harvard Business Review
Dr. Daniels is focused on Aerospace & Defense, technology management and systems engineering.