How to Speak Up About a Harmful Work Environment


During a time when the need for open organizational communication is at a premium, workers are not speaking up enough. How you convey your views at work is a direct reflection of how people understand who you are and what you represent as a team member, department leader, and as an individual. 

Your voice determines the importance that you bring to the organization. However, your personality may be misrepresented in most situations, as your speech does not clearly convey what’s actually in your mind. 


If this sounds too familiar, it’s clear you’re not working at the most optimal rate. Here are some tips you need to know to be able to speak up about harmful and toxic situations at work. 

How to Speak Up About a Harmful Work Environment
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Consider What the Risks Are

You want to be sure about what’s going on with yourself. When your coworker leaves every day early, is it worth saying something? Some might say they are stealing time from the business and therefore taking money that isn’t theirs. 

If you have an issue about it and you think it’s best to approach that workmate, do so. Being straightforward about the problem will allow you to weigh the pros and cons of tackling it.


Understand and Navigate Why People and Coworkers Act the Way They Do

Perspective is a valuable attribute when it comes to ethical circumstances. Rather than portraying your colleague as evil, try to understand the reasons behind their behavior

Individuals usually have an understandable motive, if not a defensible one. Your finance colleague may fudge the numbers because they want their boss to look good or they fear losing their job. 

Put yourself in the shoes of your coworker, and try to grasp what they are trying to do. Understand them can help you determine how to tackle the problem.

Take to the Perpetrator First 

In most cases, when you believe someone is behaving unethically, you should first talk to him or her. 

You may be tempted to go to your supervisor or the supervisor of your friend, but sometimes it is easier to give the person the benefit of the doubt and believe that he or she will improve when they see how their conduct is viewed. 

Allow him or her the opportunity to rectify their ways or at least explain it before you escalate the situation. That said, if the breach is a very serious one with potentially serious repercussions, you will need to go to your supervisor, speak to HR, or immediately call the company’s ethics hotline.

Speak Like You Command Respect 

it is important to regularly voice your opinion. When you do so, you continue to demand respect from those who aren’t bold enough to speak out. Responsibility comes with expectation, however. 

Be careful about the tone you use and control your voice. You also don’t want to come off as overbearing or rude in the workplace. It is a delicate balance.

A powerful voice will improve your power in the workplace. Most times, the one with a clear voice is the one who is asked to lead a conference, launch a new project, or who is asked to talk with others who are active in promoting an initiative.

When your voice has been heard, it can help leverage your power in ways that bind you to the organization’s other influential voices.

Ask Questions, Don’t Accuse

Trying to discuss an unethical or harmful subject by saying, “I think what you do is wrong,” or giving a morality lecture is likely to backfire

A better way to start would be to ask questions rather than making statements. 

Try using phrases such as: “Could you help me understand …” or “Could you help me see why you’re not concerned…” 

There’s a possibility that the individual isn’t aware that they’re doing anything wrong, and your questioning may enable them to see the problem

Escalate When Necessary 

Your colleague might also respond to your questions in a negative way. When this happens, the next step is to ask yourself: Do I want to talk about this with someone else? 

When you want to try it, you might arrange a meeting with your manager and view it as a gathering of information again. Be open to what you’re doing every step of the way. 

You can see that you weren’t aware of what was going on, and you may change your own viewpoint until you have more details.

How to Speak Up About a Harmful Work Environment
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Don’t be scared to speak up. If you are, think of the pros and cons of doing so. However, think of the company’ too. If an action is harmful to you or to the company, it’s best to speak up and escalate when necessary.