Speak up, even if it creates conflict: It’s good for business

“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.”

It’s good for you and it’s good for the organization.

How many of us sit in meetings, disagree with a decision and don’t speak up?

What happens when you leave the room?

Do you get right to work on the assignments you’ve been given, despite your disagreement with them? Probably not.

Do you put those assignments last on your to-do list and deal with them another day?

Or do you air your grievances over lunch with co-workers?

It is more likely that you take the latter two actions: delay and complain. After all, how could you be motivated to work on something that you don’t necessarily agree with?

And even when you begin to work on these items, is your effort as great as if you agreed with the original decision? Likely, the answer is no.

Unfortunately, remaining quiet occurs quite frequently in the workplace.

Whether it be not to prolong the meeting or to not ruffle feathers, many people do not like to create conflict in meetings. However, the end result translates directly to your organization’s bottom line.


In The New York Times’ best seller “Crucial Conversations,” the authors describe an incident in which a woman went into surgery for a tonsillectomy and, instead, part of her foot was removed. It’s an unimaginable mistake.

The authors say that up to seven staff members were in that room, wondered why the surgeon was working on the foot and yet did not speak up. These health care professionals were afraid to speak up.

While consequences of not speaking up may not be this tragic in other types of businesses, the story still paints a stark picture.

“In every instance where bosses are smart, highly paid, confident and outspoken (i.e., most of the world), people tend to hold back their opinions rather than risk angering someone in a position of power,” the authors write.


A Forbes article this year said 67 percent of today’s workforce is disengaged. The State of the Global Workforce Report noted that nearly $7 trillion of revenue is lost annually because of productivity issues from nonengaged employees.

So, what would happen if we made a commitment to speaking up – even if it were uncomfortable?

If this were to occur, every person would be heard. Every option would be heard.

The team could examine and debate every solution to the problem. Team members would be more committed to decisions made and be more engaged in their work. The amount of lost revenue would dramatically decrease.


This sounds great, but getting there is another matter.

To begin, there is a right way and a wrong way to speak up. It is extremely important that we do so appropriately. And here’s how:

< Keep it safe

Discussions with various differing opinions can become tense. It is important that team members commit to respectful dialogue.

Agree upon a certain phrase to use when you want to begin this type of dialogue, cueing to your team that you are attempting to be vulnerable with them. For example, “I’d like to have some courageous dialogue …”

< Get all ideas on the table

No matter how far-stretched or silly something may seem, talk about it as a serious option. By logically discussing all potential solutions, team members eventually will understand why the final decision is the best solution – which will increase their commitment to it.

Spending this time up front will save time on the back end by preventing team members from dragging their feet on responsibilities.

< Keep each other accountable

Once a decision is made and the team leaves the room, there should be no complaining about that decision.

If a teammates does so, hold him or her accountable: “Jess, I hear what you’re saying about our action plan, but this really should have been brought up at the meeting. The entire team should be able to weigh in on these thoughts.”


So, the next time you’re in a meeting and don’t like where it is headed, gather your confidence and choose to speak up – even if your voice shakes.

You and your teammates will benefit from engagement in your work, and the organization ultimately will benefit with bottom line results.

< Beginning in September, Cheyenne Bennett will hold a leadership development program titled Leadership Lab 20/20, focusing on the six modes of leadership excellence: know thyself, know others, communication, leadership, high-performance teams and culture. Key components include those of StrengthsFinder, Kilmann Conflict Modes, Patrick Lencioni, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, among others. Leadership teams and emerging leaders are invited. For information, contact Bennett at cbennett@compasspt.com.

Cheyenne Bennett is a leadership and talent coach at Compass Point Consulting LLC in Hanover Township, Northampton County, which provides growth and transition consulting to family businesses. She is a certified coach with DiSC and is experienced with Myers-Briggs and Gallup StrengthsFinder. She can be reached at 610-336-0514 or cbennett@compasspt.com.

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