Almost every day I hear people’s stories about how frightening it is to say what you think at work. Sometimes it is the fear that by speaking up on social platforms inside the workplace they will be opening themselves to ridicule or even hostility. Other times it is the fear that even saying what they think as a private individual online outside work can be traced back to their employer and get them in trouble.
I also hear stories about outrageous acts of bullying in the workplace. It can be as overt as tantrums, throwing things or shouting at people but also, and sometimes this is worse, systematic sneering and undermining of people who dare to break ranks or try to be different.
When responding to these stories I am careful not to underestimate the challenge or the risk. Many, I am tempted to say most, workplaces are pretty dysfunctional. Is this inevitable? I am naïve enough to believe not. Will it change overnight? Sadly not.
If we want our workplaces to be different we need to learn to stand up for ourselves, defend our right to have opinions, and gradually, through individual acts of courage, show people that things can be different. Even if it takes a long time.