Courage in the Workplace
When was the last time you demonstrated courage at work?
By David Cox, SHRM-SCP | July 03, 2018
Courage seems like a strange word to use in the context of an employee. Policemen and soldiers need to be courageous, but does the average employee holding down an office job need courage? The answer is an emphatic “Yes!”
Courage in the workplace, for most employees, will never involve life and death decisions. Regardless, it’s never easy to risk the negative opinions of others and it’s so tempting to keep your head down, your mouth shut, and just get your work done.
A newer employee may worry about risking embarrassment due to lack of experience. A long-time employee who has taken a few chances, but none proved successful, now hesitates to make suggestions, or take a leadership role. An older employee may not want to “rock the boat” so late in their career.
Courage is Needed at Work
Courage is important every day at work. Most employees tend to act on the basis of prior outcomes. Your past decisions may have been second-guessed, your motives questioned, and your choices judged harshly. You may feel your past ideas were scrutinized by everyone involved and you’re probably right. Each day it takes courage to make new decisions, new choices, and share new ideas.
If you’re going to be successful at work, you must demonstrate courage. You can distinguish yourself for your good ideas and constructive opinions, but only if you share them with others. If you intend to prove your value to the organization, you must think of ways to make contributions. Making contributions requires that you speak up, share your thoughts, and take some risks. All of which typically requires some degree of courage. You can effectively demonstrate courage in the workplace when you:
- Ask questions
- Speak directly and honestly to co-workers and managers
- Speak out against or report harassment
- Assert yourself by suggesting more effective and efficient ways to get things done
- Insist on obtaining facts to guide in making decisions
- Take initiative
- Challenge conventional wisdom and the status quo
- Stand up for your convictions
- Take time to get input from others
- Make a formal presentation, despite your fear of public speaking
- Say no to immoral, unethical, or illegal activity
- See yourself in a new, different role – not as a lackey, but as a more strategic advisor
The Employer’s Role
Employers must do their part by encouraging risk-taking, applauding new ideas, and creating an environment where their people are comfortable sharing their opinions. Employers need to encourage; even inspire the people they lead to be courageous.
The best way for employers to demonstrate courage is to bravely do what’s being asked and expected of others. In other words: Lead by example.
I hasten to add, you won’t always be successful. There will be times you will speak up, only to discover later, that you were flat wrong. You will have bad ideas. You will try things that don’t work. Remember this: No one, and I mean NO ONE, is successful all the time. So, when you fail – and you will fail, that’s when summoning your courage will prove to be a tremendous challenge.
When was the last time you acted courageously at work? I encourage you to do so because, taking everything into consideration, it will serve you well. Don’t get to the end of your career and regret what you didn’t do, just because you lacked the courage.
Up next: Leading Your Employees