Powerful Speaking for Powerful Women

Tricia Karp

2531427292I’m fortunate to regularly present to different groups of women who feel safe to share with me their frustrations and struggles at work.

From personal and executive assistants to future leaders and those in executive leadership roles, there’s a theme that’s come up time and again these past few weeks.  It goes like this:

I can’t say that I don’t appreciate being spoken to in a derogatory way because she’s my boss and she’s in charge.  

I know I shouldn’t have to ask for permission really but my boss is old-fashioned and he doesn’t really trust me to make my own decisions about anything much, even though I’ve been in this job for nine months.

I don’t say much in meetings because my boss has made it clear that I’m allowed to be there but not contribute.

I never know whether it’s ok for me to talk in a meeting if I have something on my mind or if it’s better to wait to see if my boss gets to that topic and covers it himself.

I don’t really question anything at work, especially if it’s something coming from a person who’s 25 years my senior.

I’m in an executive leadership role and my inner self-confidence has been worn down by my boss so much that I’m starting to doubt myself and my knowledge.

I don’t speak up in meetings because I’m worried that I’ll say something stupid or not know enough about the topic so it’s better to keep quiet.

Did you read all those statements and sigh loudly like I just did?

The essence of each one is this: I’m not enough.

And the antidote?

Assume equality.

It’s true that in every organisation there are designated leaders.  It’s also true that head honchos aren’t necessarily better people than you.  

Assuming equality, and behaving accordingly, is your right.  It’s essential, too, if you want to develop your own power and leadership. Remember, what you bring to your job matters, and you’re a vital cog in the wheel of your organisation.

This means – using the examples above – that if someone’s speaking to you in a derogatory way you have every right to say that you don’t appreciate or accept it.  You’ll want to think about the most effective way to say that, and approach it in a way that will serve you best in your work place, but the essence doesn’t change: it’s not acceptable to be spoken to that way.  Assume equality.

Instead of asking for permission for simple things (and behaving like a child – that’s what kids do), you can decide to inform rather than ask. Assume equality.  Be direct and confident.

Speak up in meetings.  Have your say.  It’s your job to contribute, that’s why you have your job in the first place.  Don’t wait for someone else to say what you’re thinking and take all the credit for it.  Assume equality.

If you’re not sure about something, instigate a conversation.  Make your intentions clear.  Make it known that you want to do the best you can and be the best you can be, and you’d love to discuss a few ideas you have.  Assume equality.  And then collaborate.

No matter what your job role or position, you can be a leader in your own right.

Now, go forth and speak.


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2 Responses

  1. I have really appreciated the article – this came to me just at the right time. Thanking you

  2. It’s calmly and gracefully speaking that I don’t like being spoken to in a derogatory or disrespectful way that is my challenge. I am getting better at this but I am not off my training wheels. For me, having this voice can feel really hard but I always feel better for speaking up even if it doesn’t come out quite how I want.