equity inclusion, equity
Diversity,  Inclusion,  Professional Development,  workplace dynamics

I Want to Speak Up at Work…But I Fear Retaliation

How many times I have heard that comment!

Lots of Things Can Happen When Inclusion Training Starts


I’ve worked for decades as an organizational change consultant, helping organizations to establish socially just environments where everyone feels valued and respected.

Some days, my work feels almost like the dog-chasing-its-tail drama: Working to resolve one exclusionary situation can bring to life the ugly head of another issue.

Revenge and retaliation always perpetuate the cycle of anger, fear and violence.

-Coretta Scott King


Once an organization steps up and begins inclusion training, many things can happen. While some earnestly attempt to overcome their exclusionary practices, others seem hell-bent on continuing their discrimination, which can result in seeking revenge or retaliation towards anyone who speaks truth to power.


We must be determined to seek out help in order to stop the cycle – and in the process, learn more about ourselves.


Equity Inclusion Sessions Bring Up Retaliation Concerns


Some participants in equity inclusion workshops feel strong – and brave enough – to ask questions about other related matters.

Participants usually pull me aside privately at breaks or lunch and say something like:

“I can’t say this in the session because I’m afraid of retaliation, but in my unit…”

Everyone in the organization deserves a place of confidence to have conversations like these with leaders who will take them seriously and work to resolve unproductive, exclusionary dynamics.


If your organization has a Human Resources Department, it’s a good place to start the conversation. But what if you work in HR, and your senior VP seems to be the problem? Or you don’t trust HR professionals will honor your need for confidentiality?


When HR Should Help – But It Doesn’t


If this is the case for you, my suggestion would be to seek out someone in senior leadership to help you walk through the issue.

Approach a senior VP with a statement like, “I’d love to have a conversation about my day-to-day experience here. Are you open to that? I’d want to have this discussion in confidence.”

You could describe the general organizational dynamics as well as your concern about retribution and retaliation if you speak up directly.

Sometimes, if there are not any resources in the organization that seem trustworthy, you can seek counsel and support from community organizations.

If you feel you have exhausted every avenue to resolve exclusionary dynamics, this may be a signal from the universe that it is time to move on. I believe when one door closes, another opens – one that most often leads us closer to our true passion and purpose in life.


Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life


If you’re in a situation that’s all around dysfunctional, it’s very difficult to feel productive and useful. As challenging as it sounds, try and learn the lesson the experience is trying to teach you.


Ask yourself: “What am I learning today that will help me to be more effective tomorrow?”


Brooke Castillo, who founded The Life Coach School, offers workshops and podcasts that follow a model she created to change your thoughts. It’s similar to my Triggering Event Cycle.

It’s all about changing how we think and making meaning of situations. Shifting our perspective can definitely change our lives.

I’ll leave you with this Brené Brown quote that I hope will empower you today:

“When we deny our stories, they define us.

When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending.”

Every single person deserves to work in an environment where they can feel safe and respected, where they know they can speak truth to power and be taken seriously.

At the Center for Transformation and Change®, we offer a comprehensive range of trainings to help organizations better achieve their equity and inclusion goals. Discover more about our upcoming events here.

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