When To Speak Up at Work (And Why It Matters)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 16, 2022 | Published May 11, 2021

Updated February 16, 2022

Published May 11, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Voicing your opinion at work or offering ideas for new projects may seem challenging but it just requires a few key skills and techniques to make sure you're speaking at the right time and saying the right things. In this article, we discuss when to speak up at work and why it's important to share your ideas.

Related: Effective Language Skills in the Workplace

Why is it important to speak up at work?

Letting your thoughts be heard at work can be a challenge if you're not used to speaking in public. If you're at a new workplace, you may not feel comfortable yet and that's ok. However, speaking up at work can bring new ideas to brainstorming sessions and help others see things from your perspective. Here are some important reasons to speak up at work:

Improving communication can boost productivity and team cohesiveness

Good communication is the key to a positive, reliable relationship. This applies to work relationships as well. If you're working with a new person or you're new to the job, communication can help make everyone more comfortable. The people that don't know you yet can't read your body language, so good communication helps them understand your needs and emotions. Here are some tips for good communication:

  • Honesty and integrity. Honesty means you're telling the truth about your feelings and expectations while you're communicating. This can help the two parties avoid potential conflict rooted in miscommunications or deception. Integrity means you're living up to that honesty even when no one is looking. This is communicating that you're a trustworthy person.

  • Learning to listen. It's important to learn to listen better so you can understand the person who's talking and what they expect. Listening means waiting your turn to speak and approaching the conversation from a "listen to hear" perspective, instead of a "listen to reply" mentality. When you listen to hear, you're focusing on the person's words instead of your next statement.

  • Concise communication. Concise communication can be far easier to decode. Re-read your emails and think about your verbal statements. If you can trim things down, it's a good idea to try.

Finding your voice

Companies are made up of different types of people. Each person brings their own unique voice to the organization and finding that voice can help solidify your position. A strong, confident voice can encourage innovation and production, even if you're not in a managerial position.

Related: 20 Ways To Improve Your Work Environment

Keeping body language and verbal communication consistent

A large portion of our communication is body language, but often, body language needs to be supported by verbal communication in order to make sense and convey the correct message. Sometimes, verbal and nonverbal communication don't align, especially if you haven't found your voice yet. Body language can display excitement for a project, comfort with a team member or confidence in what you're doing.

Respect

Speaking up in the workplace helps establish respect by setting boundaries. Healthy boundaries and good communication are the two pillars of respect, so reinforcing those pillars can be a daily task. You can set healthy boundaries by simply voicing those boundaries to the people around you. For example, you can let the team know you don't answer emails after 8 pm because you have a son and that's bedtime.

Related: How To Read Body Language

When to speak up at work

Knowing when to speak up at work, especially in a new work environment, can be confusing. Here are some opportunities to speak up that you can take advantage of:

  • When you see a problem with the process. The process your team uses to reach their goals may be imperfect, but if you see a problem, it's a good idea to speak up about it so that it doesn't compound. You can suggest changes you think might work or ask your co-workers for suggestions. A supervisor may appreciate the extra effort on your behalf, and it displays your dedication to the job.

  • When you're supporting an inclusive workplace. If you witness injustice in the workplace, many companies have specific policies for reporting such incidents. You can follow the policy to remain anonymous while still upholding a positive and inclusive workplace.

  • When you have something positive to offer to a project. If you have praise or a positive sentiment to add to a discussion or project, you can voice your opinion when there's an excellent opportunity to speak. This helps lift the general mood of the project and provide a confidence boost for everyone involved.

  • When you're in a meeting. Meetings can be far more effective when everyone participates. Even if you have something minor to add to the conversation, you can still make your voice heard.

Related: How To Communicate Effectively With a Difficult Team

When not to speak up at work

Voicing your opinion at work can potentially lead to negative consequences if you go about it in a disrespectful or negative way. Here's when not to speak up at work:

  • When someone else is talking. Waiting until someone finishes what they're saying helps you better understand what they're saying and shows respect.

  • When you've made a mistake in front of everyone and the supervisor says something. It can be easy to feel hurt in the moment when a supervisor points out your mistakes, but it's not always a good time to speak up. If you think your supervisor went about it the wrong way or was incorrect, you can approach them later in private after the emotional reaction has subsided.

  • When someone else gets the promotion or raise. Congratulate your coworker and make sure you understand why they were chosen for a promotion. If you think you missed a chance to get that same promotion, speak to your supervisor in private about why you weren't chosen and how you can improve for next time.

Nonverbal communication is one of many tools that can help you make a good impression in interviews and in your professional life. However, candidate assessments should be based on skills and qualifications, and workplaces should strive to be inclusive and understanding of individual differences in communication styles.

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