Should you be outspoken at work?

The workplace is a tough place to make an impression. Still, most employees are keen to stand out from the crowd, and want to ensure they come across in a positive way. Therefore, this begs the question; should you speak up more, or let your work do the talking?

Well, the answers aren’t quite so black and white. Let’s look into the matter in more detail.


Your position


It might seem like a rude thing to say, but ‘knowing your place’ is important at work. If you act and behave in a way that is above your station, you can turn your colleagues and/or boss against you. Consequently, most of the words that come out of your mouth need to be carefully controlled.

For example, if you’re an intern chiming in with your opinion at every opportunity, you might just come across as a little bit desperate. There’s being helpful, and there’s being a brown nosing attention seeker. From this, you need to to decipher what role your speech is playing, ensuring that everything you say is legitimately useful to the business you’re working for.

Remember, this isn’t a stance that’s derived from a ‘snooty’ place. Your level of experience will impact what you say and how you say it. Should a new staff member advise the boss at every turn? Is your outspoken nature passing key wisdom onto others, or are you slowing down the productivity of your more able workers? Answer these questions first, then decide whether or not to talk.

outspoken at work

The culture


Despite their best intentions, outspoken people can rub others the wrong way. Even when their aim is to be helpful or to be clear, that wanting to speak up doesn’t gel with others. Is it jealousy of your confidence, or do they just like quiet work environments? It’s probably the latter…

Therefore, you should try to gauge the culture of your workplace before you decide whether to speak up more. Some businesses encourage an outspoken demeanour, while others just like quiet yes men and women to do their jobs. Neither approach is inherently wrong, it’s just a different way of doings.

In any event, you should respect the overall vibe of whatever company you’re working at. No one person will change the fabric of the culture, and if your somewhat louder than everyone else, then you’ll just be a bother to most people. There’s no hiding from your flaws or blaming someone else in that situation!


Instilling authority


Of course, you should never be a total pushover at work. This is especially true if you have some authority over others. Whether you’re in a co-manager position or filling a team leader role, your words are important.

If you’re in a position that has subordinates beneath you, you will need to be outspoken from time to time. This is how the pecking order is built, and speech signifies to others who is in charge and who must answer to who. Still, this isn’t a free pass to be rude.

That said, if you’re put in charge of a project or have a trainee under your guidance, sometimes blunt and concise answers are better than long-winded speeches or total silence. To employ either leaves more room for guesswork and multiple interpretations, so in these kinds of scenarios, by all means be a little more abrupt with your speech. After all, it’s important that all of your ideas and objectives are communicated with complete clarity.

outspoken at work

Attitude and demeanour


There’s another old saying; it’s not what you say, but the way that you say it. Even if you feel that what you have to say is important at work, it’s just as vital that you don’t communicate it in a way that’s off-putting. Any snobbery or rudeness won’t impress anybody, even if you’re in a position of authority.

For example, don’t talk over others, don’t interrupt, and don’t adorn a smug grin when you’re attempting to correct people. Actions really do speak louder than words. Don’t boast, don’t brag, don’t take joy in telling people what they’ve done wrong. Instead, maintain eye contact, smile, and just be friendly and professional each time you speak.

Moreover, if you’re an approachable person, colleagues and superiors will engage with you more. This will give you more opportunities to speakup in a legitimate manner. People like other nice people, and being kind and choosy with your words shows you’re not just some blabbermouth with no filter.


Level of noise


Have you ever met somebody who just won’t shut up? Well, don’t be that person, because you will be informed regardless of whether or not the information you have to say is useful or whether the work culture is cheerful and chatty. Put simply, even if you’re sharing genius ideas, if you do it an irritating way then you will be perceived as a great disturbance in the force.

Being outspoken can be okay in some places, but loud talkers are pretty much rejected everywhere. Make sure you’re not just venting your hyperactivity and trying to pass it off as ‘speaking up’. Always maintain a sense of professional decorum, keep your tone and pitch at controlled levels, and be calm in your speech. You’ll appear to be more in control, despite talking a great deal.


The timing


Frankly, there’s a time to talk and there’s a time to shut up. If you can see that people are really focused, be quiet and send an email or Slack message instead. Leave colleagues alone when they’re staring intensely at a screen, wearing headphones, or frowning and scratching foreheads while looking at a document. They don’t need to hear from you in those moments.

However, being outspoken in a meeting or when you’ve been asked for input is probably best. You need to choose your timing so that your words land at the right time. A well-crafted suggestion is far more likely to be accepted when it comes along in an hour of need, rather than at say, lunch time when people want to chill out.