Speaking up at work: 4 tips to make your voice heard

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It can be hard to speak up at work. You can be shy or unsure about your English. You might be worried about making a bad first impression.

Why speak up?

Speaking up is a way to be noticed in the workplace. You may be smart and capable but your co-workers cannot guess what is on your mind. You need to speak up and participate. It also builds your credibility.

Tips to start speaking up:

  1. Be prepared
    Learn everything about your new job. Always prepare for meetings. Suggest ideas or ask questions at the right time.
  2. Make an opportunity
    • Ask questions – Many newcomers don’t do this for fear of looking incompetent. You are expected to ask questions when you are new. It shows that you want to do the job correctly. Ask relevant questions. Listen and remember the answers so you won’t have to ask again.
    • Give feedback – Let your boss know how things are working out in your job. Be tactful when you are giving negative feedback. Use the “feedback sandwich” technique. For example: “I think the new process for X is good. But maybe we can simplify it. It can complement the efficient system.”
    • Make a suggestion – Bring new ideas and solutions. Have the initiative to suggest improvements. But be tactful when doing this. Not everyone will agree with what you say and your suggestions may not be accepted every time. That’s ok. Just keep trying.
  3. Delivery matters
    Things to remember when:

    • You’re insecure about your English:
      Don’t worry about your grammar or accent. Speak slowly and clearly. Be brief and concise and go straight to the point.
    • You’re afraid you might say the wrong thing:
      Try anyway! Your ideas can make a difference. Don’t get discouraged if you are wrong. Take it as a learning experience. It is part of integrating into the workplace.
    • You get anxious before speaking:
      This is normal. Practice to get over anxiety. Take a deep breath before speaking. You can do it!

    Always be tactful when you speak. Respect others and put their feelings first. Don’t say “No you are wrong” when disagreeing. Canadians ask a question instead when they need to point out an error (example: “Sorry, but can you please tell me how you arrived at (this answer)?”). Give your co-worker a chance to explain.

  4. Continue learning English
    Many newcomers stop learning English once they get a job. Some don’t have time to learn. The truth is, learning English on the job is not enough. You can:

Article updated April 15, 2020.
Sources: The 3-word strategy that’ll give you the confidence to speak up at work, Sara Mccord, The Muse; Working in the Canadian workplace – A Handbook for newcomers to Canada, Paul A. Holmes; and How to get over your fear of speaking up at work, Jon Simmons, Monster. Retrieved October 17, 2018.

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