Many of us hate being the center of attention or have felt too new to have anything valuable to add at work. In fact, at least half of employees feel like they can’t speak up at work.
There are dozens of reasons we talk ourselves out of contributing our ideas and thoughts on the job, especially in group meetings. In this age of video meetings particularly, it may be hard to feel like you can truly stand out and be heard. But speaking up and sharing ideas at work is good for everyone: you, your manager, your team or department, and the greater company.
Here are some reasons to speak up and tips to help you grow your confidence and find your voice in the workplace.
It can help you get promoted
If you’re looking to move ahead in your career, sharing your opinions is important. The more you can contribute, the more you will be seen as a valuable member of the team. If your team is consistently executing on your ideas, this can help you climb the ladder of success. If you are actively looking to create a path to a promotion and/or raise, participating more frequently gives you a greater chance of success.
You can make a difference
Your company hired you because they consider you a valuable employee. Your ideas are just as valid and important as anyone else’s at the company. Your manager depends on their team members to help them achieve common goals. If you have ideas, suggestions, or ways to improve things, they can make a positive difference in everyone’s work including your manager’s.
Your voice is your agency
If you always keep your thoughts to yourself, people may make decisions about things that affect you without your input. This can make you feel manipulated, frustrated, or even angry with yourself for not saying something sooner. Perhaps you already contribute regularly, but you aren’t being heard. The key to speaking with more authority at work is strengthening your personal brand by using your voice.
Being prepared drives confidence
If you have ideas you wish you could present during meetings but don’t feel confident about speaking up, research is your friend. Facts, stats, and figures can help back up your suggestions or ideas. Prepare for meetings with evidence to back up your claims, and you’ll be ahead of the game. To prepare, ask to meet with your manager separately so that you can present your ideas one-on-one. However you choose to approach it, if you’ve done your research, it shows the level of interest and investment you have in your ideas.
Speak up as soon as possible
When the time is right, you have to act quickly and let the group know you have something to add. Meetings can move from topic to topic very quickly, and once the moment has passed, you will feel less and less like speaking up. If you aren’t able to interject in the moment, take notes about what you want to say so you can present your ideas as soon as it’s over.
Finding your voice
Contributing more at work can take many forms. Speaking up can be raising your hand when someone asks who can take on a new task. Until you’re more comfortable voicing your own ideas, you can back up or praise others’ work or ideas.
Think “curious” instead of “confrontational.” Ask questions to get clarification on others’ ideas, voice support for someone else’s points, or add a counterpoint for group discussion. Contributing to the conversation doesn’t mean arguing or interrupting. Your unique perspective and experience can be of value to the whole team.
Share ideas in brainstorming sessions until your regular participation is routine. Once you’ve become a regular, reliable contributor, you can begin to present your own ideas and suggestions.
Contributing at work doesn’t always mean vocally
If you are extremely uncomfortable speaking in front of people, even the best ideas may not come off well. Not everyone has confidence to interject in the middle of a meeting. But you can be a quiet person and still be heard, noticed, and promoted. Take notes about what you wanted to say and send a follow-up email immediately after the meeting. Contributing is important no matter how you do it.
Being a valuable contributor takes balance. You want to be confident, not cocky. You don’t want to be perceived as being a showoff just because you’re trying to contribute more, bring more attention to your ideas, and get ahead.
If you are a remote worker, some aspects of communication require more nuance than face-to-face. Consider how to present your ideas so that you’re encouraging collaboration with others, rather than making them feel like they are competing with you.
Be transparent and remain a team player. Don’t show frustration or anger if your ideas don’t come to fruition or are rejected. Remember that you’re working not just to get ahead but to help your department, your boss, and the company with your work. When you take the time to ensure your actions match your intentions, you will find your own unique way of bringing your voice to the table.