Consequences of Taking a Stand
Sometimes, you must speak up to maintain self-worth. In previous posts, we’ve discussed how to do that. However, no matter how successfully you pilot through your initial conversation, there will be consequences which you need to prepare for and accept as part and parcel of deciding to speak out.
Consequences you might face
Depends on your boss and how open your company is to change. The following list is generally in order of severity. What consequences you have to undergo will depend on how big the problem that you raise and how much your boss and/or company wants to avoid dealing with it. This list is adapted from the one published in Creating the Innovation Culture: Leveraging Visionaries Dissenters and Other Useful Troublemakers in Your Organization, Chapter Five.
- Ignore. Silence—a powerful weapon. When you raise the issue, no one replies. The conversation continues as if you’d never spoken.
- Made invisible. Funny things start to happen. Somehow, your name gets left off distribution lists. Important and interesting work is re-assigned. Decisions are taken without your input.
- Forbid. If you continue to push your unpopular views, your boss will say:
“Focus on assigned projects, not on the ones you want to do.”
“Stop wasting people’s time by pushing your agenda.”
- Get rid of you. If the situation gets to this stage, war has been declared. And, just given the way of the world, the power is on the side of the higher ups. If you ignore previous injunctions, you might hear:
“I don’t think your skills are up to this position. There’s a job for a paper-pusher in Division M.”
“You need to report through Bob now. He’ll vet any of your ideas.”
“Somebody has to be laid off. I regret (sic) it has to be you.”
“We don’t have a place for you in this organization.”
I would not underestimate the tools companies have to silence uncomfortable thoughts and those who push them. If you continue to feel strongly about the issue, you may have to endure these. Or you have one final possibility.
Do I go above my boss’ head?
It is always an option, as is going on-line to air the issue. If you stay within the company but appeal to some higher-up, every boss in the hierarchy between you and the higher-up will try to discredit you to avoid looking bad themselves. If you go outside the company, expect the full weight of the company’s lawyers to be thrown at you.
Is it better not to take a stand?
As you can see, things can get big and ugly if you stick to your guns. Which is not a reason to back down if you are passionate about your cause. But you need to go into this with your eyes wide open. There will be people fighting for the status quo; the fight will become personal for everyone; you may be risking your job or your ability to work in your field.
In summary, you need to take a stand when not doing so eats at your self-respect or violates deeply-held values. You can do some things in the hopes of minimizing the damage to your job and career but there will be consequences imposed for speaking up. But sometimes, not often, but sometimes, it is worth it.