Finding Your Voice in the Workplace
It’s time to begin work on a new book and I vaguely dread the isolation and difficulty of extracting thoughts and feelings from my being to share them with interested others. It’s hard work–even exhausting sometimes–because until you see words on the page, you don’t necessarily know what you really feel about things. Coming face-to-face with true feelings can be a very unsettling process. It’s always liberating and often exciting, but it’s never easy.
This book started working on me several years ago. After writing “How to Grow a Backbone” and having a number of wary conversations with people about its premise, I began to look deeper for reasons why people have difficulty speaking up or doing the things they want to do. External barriers were always cited–someone or something else stood in the way–but watching people’s eyes turn sad or noticing how they fidgeted as if trying to dismiss their discomfort told me that something more was going on. Something inside wasn’t feeling good and talking about it didn’t help.
I started watching for integrity in behavior. Did people do what they said they wanted to? Did they keep promises? Did they persist in efforts to realize important goals? Did I?
Some did; some didn’t. And I couldn’t tell why.
Then I started thinking about how we’re taught to make decisions. We’re not! Most of us are taught to pay attention and show deference to authority figures who’ve ‘been there, done that,’ and who instruct us based on their experiences. I started thinking about how we’re shaped by where we’re born and to whom we belong. And I looked around to see that so many of the infrastructures I grew up with–intact families, powerful religious leaders, black-and-white/right-and-wrong rules, specific and limited social norms, and universally accepted heroes to name just a small sample–are either gone or no longer universally accepted.
No wonder we have confusion, chaos, and violence on the rise. Who’s in charge here? Where are the adults?
As I begin this new work, three questions shape my thinking.
1. At what point do we realize we have our own voice, separate from parents, teachers, friends, spouses,
2. At what point do we begin to listen to our own voice?
3. At what point do we begin to act on our own voice?
I’ll be talking to a lot of people over the next several months. Psychologists to better understand human development and the strength of external forces. People who have struggled to find and listen to their own voices. People who have gone that one step further and had the courage to act upon their own voices.
The book will be about growth. I expect it will have its moments of pain, but my mission is to offer hope and encouragement. I believe we’re all equipped with voices that want and need to be heard–that deserve to be heard. But finding and raising them with dignity, grace and humility is no easy task. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you want to join me in the journey, please raise your voice!