In this video, discover why it's hard to speak up. Explore the bystander effect phenomenon, as well as the effects of fear of retaliation, own past experiences, and more.
- Speaking up in a negative situation at work can be scary. It does take courage to step in when you're witnessing someone berate another person, and certainly, if someone is berating you. If you and your peers all agree to step in though, it can change your future. Don't step in, and the negative, aggressive behavior can go down a very dark path. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, retaliation is the number one fear when it comes to speaking up. Employees wonder if the harasser or bully, their manager, their team or HR will make them pay through more abuse or forcing them out. I find this fascinating, because it's against the law to retaliate, and your organization has a policy against retaliation. This just highlights how important a culture of speaking up is, if you're going to inspire people to actually do that. We also don't speak up due to the bystander effect. If a lot of people know about the situation, they'll all tell themselves they can stay out of it and stay safe, because someone else will surely handle it. Past experiences also keep people from speaking up. If you've spoken up in the past and didn't get resolution, or are aware of someone else who spoke up and didn't get resolution, then what's the point? People won't intervene, because they believe their efforts won't make a difference. Most managers aren't trained on what to do if someone complains, unless the complaint is about harassment. So managers often give bad advice, like telling employees to work it out on their own. This is terrible advice, unless the manager is right there with both parties, coaching them as the problem gets resolved. Since most don't do that, it's likely employees have had bad experiences bringing issues to managers. Another, more subtle, reason people may not report harassment or bullying is muted group theory, which states that in social environments, a dominant group rises to the top, and a less dominant group falls to the bottom. This means that the dominant group's communication is the norm, and the less powerful group must learn to speak in ways that suit the dominant group. So if the workplace is a man's world, for example, where emotion isn't necessarily acceptable, talking about a very emotional topic means going against the norm. In other words, we're conditioned to keep emotions out of the workplace, which leads to another reason, the pressure to speak in logical ways at work. We discuss tangible goals, quotas, performance metrics and ROI, so when something emotional happens, reporting it goes against the organization's culture. I think people know this inherently and it keeps them quiet. Lastly, and the hardest to come back from, is an organizational culture that does not support those who attempt to intervene. I hear this all the time in my trainings. People say they wouldn't dare speak up, because they know the organization won't support them. So, the culture has to change if you expect your employees to speak up for themselves and others. You have to show them you will support them all the way through.
- Creating an upstander culture
- Setting behavioral standards
- Understanding your role as an upstander
- Overcoming fear and uncertainty
- Leveraging tools and scripts for standing up