Speaking Truth to Power

3 minute read

At a large group session recently, we were talking about the importance of speaking up with our managers about problems, especially ones that the manager may be creating. It’s something that many people—myself included—don’t always feel comfortable doing. We don’t want to bring our manager bad news, especially if that bad news is that THEY are creating an issue. One of the hardest things to manage in the workplace is speaking truth to power.

It’s a hard thing to say to your manager, “Mike, you’re creating a problem for the team when you do that.” It can also be one of the simplest ways to get their help on something that we feel is big, and they may see as small. The difficulty with approaching a manager isn’t always that the actual issue is a big deal…it tends to feel bigger because of who we are taking it to.

There are three simple steps to help make these conversations easier for you and your manager:

One way to reframe this process in your mind is to ask yourself, “What do I want my direct reports to do with me?”

When I asked the team how many of them wanted their team members to let THEM know when THEY were creating a problem, almost every single hand went up. When I followed that up with “How many of you tell your manager when they are creating a problem?” very few raised their hand. This paradox exists because people aren’t comfortable with HOW to have this conversation with their manager.

Your manager will appreciate your honesty and your willingness to speak up, especially if you’re uncomfortable. Keep remembering that you are doing this to help them, help you, and help the business.

Most team members who do this excitedly share the story at the next team session and talk about how well it went. They didn’t get fired, and the manager didn’t blow their top. They actually say that they feel a better connection with their manager because of this conversation.