A recent article in the Harvard Business Review discussed a long time phenomenon the author calls “violent politeness”. This is when we enter the workforce young and eager to make our mark we often leave our voice behind. Why? Because speaking up and potentially sharing our critical opinion comes with a cost. We think the cost is being labeled as being “not a team player” or “negative” or “he never has anything good to say”. Because of this we think silence is the answer, but at what cost?
I have been luck enough in my career to work for some people who not only encouraged honesty, but demanded it. Because of that a great deal of the learned behavior I have built my career around is not being afraid to share my opinion. Some times it costs me short-term status, but often times it increased my long-term value when I am shown as being the lone voice of reason in hindsight.
The article got me to think a little about my current work environment. The current environment does not lend itself to honestly sharing opinion or comment or ideas. For one thing these are not asked for by others. No one comes to you and says, “I just wanted to get a different set of eyes on this, what do you think?” They are all too busy building empires, which the worst enemy of empire building is the insight and opinion of others.
Because of that in recent years I have slowly been retrained to not bring honesty to the table, because honesty is negatively rewarded. However, I have not allowed this to change the way I lead others or how I interact with others where I know the relationships can withstand honesty. I still approach these with the focus of sharing honest opinion and insight.
So it makes me wonder what it would be like if we all made an agreement to come to the table with honesty in tow in our work environment. What if we where able to accept it was okay to share honestly without fear, and not only accept it, but expect it? What would work look like if that was the base expectation?
The article that spurred this thought (“Why Work Is Lonely” by Gianpiero Petriglieri) can be found by clicking here.