How Best to Speak Truth To Power At Work

The phrase, “Speak Truth To Power” has become synonymous with things like whistleblowing or defending against injustice. But the phrase can also describe a scenario that is familiar to anyone who’s ever had to confront the boss or open his eyes to a new perspective.

Such conversations can be uncomfortable. They require challenging the behavior and mindset of a superior — which could potentially lead to push back or worse. But good preparation can turn a bad situation into an opportunity to shine.

If the issue you’re addressing stirs emotion, before talking, allow enough time for cooler heads to prevail. Try putting yourself in the other’s shoes. Think about their point of view, background and pressures, or other things happening in their life. When you do talk, make your case clear and convincing by using examples and data to which the person can relate. Offer solutions that you’re willing and able to be part of. Close with thanks for hearing you out.


Managing Up To Get Ahead

No matter where we are in our company’s hierarchy, we all have someone we answer to. Most people report to a manager or supervisor, while those at the very top answer to a Board, stockholders or customers. If you’re among the many with a boss, here are some tips to help you engage upwards in a way that says “I’m interested in making a valuable contribution.”

Take the initiative to keep your boss informed and updated. Don’t wait for her to ask. Instead, schedule regular check-ins to discuss progress, challenges and next steps. When a project is complete, tell her or email her with important details about its impact.

Ask for feedback outside of the annual evaluation period. Good questions might be, “What are your suggestions for improvement?” Or, “What skills can I acquire that will add value?”

When you manage up effectively, you become a visible, valuable member of the team who will be rewarded for your efforts.

Getting Rid of Low Value Work

Priscilla Claman of Boston-based Career Strategies writes in the Harvard Business Review that task-driven time management ended between 2007 & 2009 when 8.8 million people lost their jobs. Those left behind had to find ways to do more, which meant re-evaluating their workload and getting rid of low-value work.

How might you do the same? One company’s controller sent around a list of his monthly reports that nobody read and asked for votes on the most important three or four. He then stopped producing the ones nobody used.

A professor decided to only write personal references for her advisees and seminar students, which saved her hours of time. Consider limiting what you are going to do, then let everyone know.

Automate what ever you can. Find someone in the IT department or who’s tech savvy to help you identify ways to automatic your low-value tasks.