Gaining the Confidence to Speak Up at Work

Many civilian employers tell us that they choose to hire veterans because vets are conscientious, task-driven, and disciplined. Vets have spent years reporting to senior military officers—fulfilling their well-defined duties.

So what happens when vets transition into private sector, where employees need to speak up in certain situations such as conferences or HR meetings? It can be stressful at first, but it’s important to assert yourself in the same disciplined manner that you performed your military duties.

Choosing a workplace that encourages communication is a positive start. Knowing that your coworkers want to hear your insights can make it much easier to express an opinion. While it may take time to get used to, giving your perspective adds value to your workplace. Your company chose you for many reasons—and one was your unique experience. Let that experience do the talking when you’re in a brainstorming session or group meeting.

We know that transitioning to a civilian career takes some getting used to. And that learning to speak up at work may be one of the most difficult changes you face. But once you’ve become comfortable with it, you’ll be able to better define your career path. Expressing your thoughts showcases your concerns or expertise. Your input is valuable and needs to be heard by the appropriate people.

Remember that it’s important to know your role—don’t bust in on the CEO with your big idea. Instead, wait until it seems like an appropriate time (maybe during a watercooler break) and talk to your coworkers or supervisor. These people may bring up new issues to think about that help you to fine-tune your pitch.

In workplaces where it seems more difficult to speak up, you do have options. If you truly feel stifled from being able to add your opinions or comments, it might be time to speak to a HR representative. There’s always the chance that the issue is a simple miscommunication that can be easily corrected by talking to someone with “fresh” ears.

If the situation is not easily fixed, the HR representative can help you to work your way through it.

Of course there are situations where speaking up is imperative—situations including harassment or discrimination within the workplace. These occurrences should be immediately reported to HR.

Your military experience made you the person you are today. As you move into a new life chapter, let that experience guide you and benefit your employer. Speaking up may help you to move up in the workplace.