Dear Bettie Boomer:

I’m puzzled. A twenty-something professional, I’m very aware of culture, environment and communication styles.  It seems in this political climate that transparency reins, communication boundaries evaporate and nobody follows the traditional manners my parents insisted upon. Social media and texting make it easy for everyone to say whatever they want, whenever they want.

Here’s the confusing part. Most of this free-for-all is ok at work too. But, sometimes it’s not. I just don’t know when it’s ok to be me and speak my mind and when it isn’t.

How do I determine when I can freely state my opinion in the workplace without jeopardizing my job? I think I have a lot to offer and I don’t want to play games or hide behind formalities. On the other hand, I have school loans to pay off and can’t afford to lose my job.

Scared To Speak Up

Dear Scared To Speak Up:

The tides of political correctness are definitely shifting. As noted earlier this year by The Huffington Post“ seems that the most outrageous rhetoric is ruling the day. There also seems to be a groundswell of people who take offense at being held to standards of appropriateness or political correctness.”

The news organization also points out that while much of this is confined to politics, “there is evidence that this trend of speaking freely is beginning to trickle down into the workplace; affecting workplace behavior and the tone of conversations.”

Relationship Building

First and foremost, I would encourage you to balance free expression with the strength of your workplace relationships. Once you’ve taken time to connect with colleagues on a deep level, you have more latitude for free expression. Besides, according to the Gallup Organization, people who have good friends in the workplace are more likely to enjoy work and be satisfied.

When you take the time to develop healthy working relationships with colleagues, customers, suppliers and organizational stakeholder, you foster bonds of:

  • Trust
  • Respect
  • Mindfulness
  • Diversity and
  • Open communication.

Some actions you can take to build relationships include:

  • Intentional collaboration
  • Scheduling time for fact-to-face interaction with co-workers
  • Show appreciation when others help and genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well
  • Focus on being positive
  • Set and manage your boundaries
  • Avoid gossip
  • Practice active listening

Respect and Be Sensitive to Diversity

Remember that today’s workplace is more diverse than any other time in history. This includes race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and personal history. Not only are the workers diverse, but so are customers and stakeholders.

As a participant in the global workforce, I suggest that before speaking everything that comes to mind, consider respect, dignity and inclusiveness. Ask yourself:

  • Does my contribution add value for everyone, or just myself?
  • Does exercising my right to speak honestly without filters contribute to growth and forward momentum in an inclusive manner?
  • Is it appropriate to be “professionally correct” or is the the time when pushing the envelope makes sense for the betterment of my company and those we serve?

While many of these suggestions appear obvious, making a conscious decision to implement them takes time and effort. Developing soft skills in the workplace can be equally important as the technical professional skills that got you hired. The good news is that acquiring relationship building skills transfers from professional to personal settings and can be the key to career growth.

Best wishes for building your network of influencers.
Bettie Boomer 

September 2016