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Once & For All: Stopping Sexual Harassment at Work

How Good Intentions Become Bad Decisions

The reasons listed below are excuses we all use for not speaking out when we have concerns about a decision— concerns that can range from slight uncertainty to strong objection. Failing to speak out, however, prevents the group from hearing our true beliefs. Bad decisions are often made because of the “inaccurate data” groups receive from individuals who withhold their honest feedback.

1. I’m the newest member of the group.  I haven’t earned my voice at the table yet.

2. I don’t care enough about the issue under discussion to risk offending anyone.  It’s more important to me to avoid making waves.

3. I care a lot about this issue, but I care more about keeping my job.  I’m going to keep my mouth shut!

4. If I express my real opinions on this issue, someone will give me an extra assignment, or put me in charge of finding alternatives.

5. I’m not the expert.  Why would I know more about this than the rest of those sitting at the table?

6. I shouldn’t be at this meeting in the first place.  Who put me on the distribution list, anyway?

7. We’ve been through this a dozen times.  I’m tired of it.  Let’s decide something—anything—and just move on.

8. The project sponsor has put so much effort into this proposal, I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

9. I have reservations about this decision, but if it moves ahead as is, there’s a good chance I can get that part-time assistant I need.

10. Everyone at this table remembers the last time I voiced a concern.  It created all kinds of implementation delays and then turned out to be a non-issue.

11. It’s really up to my boss.  That’s why they pay her the big bucks.

12. Am I the only one awake at this meeting?  I wish the others would learn to participate and be more accountable for decisions that impact that impact their departments.

13. Whatever.  (as in, what-EH-ver).

14. It would be better if we studied this more, but I suppose you could say that about any decision.  I’m not going to mention it.

15. I’m good with details.  But, right now, no one in this room wants to hear about MY problems or concerns with the details.  I’ll wait until later.

To make this a training activity:

Put the list above on a handout for each team member.

Have each participant pick their 3 favorite “excuses” from the list, by circling the numbers of the three statements with which they most identify.  Note:  Encourage participants to be completely honest.  Assure them they will not need to verbally share their responses with anyone.  They do not need to put their name on the handout.

Ask each person to jot down, on a separate piece of paper, the numbers they circled on the handout and then have them pass the handout back to you.

Write the numbers 1 – 15 on a flip chart or white board and use tally marks as a volunteer reads the choices from each handout.  (You may want to take a session break while you tally the responses.)

Construct the group’s Top 5 List by recording the number of selections for Reason #1, Reason #2, etc.  Circle the five most frequently noted reasons.

Review the list, starting with #5 and working toward #1 (the most often cited).  If you have time constraints, focus on the top three reasons.  Ask the group for comments about these tendencies.

Present the following alternatives as a way to counter the reluctance we all can feel about sharing our true opinions, knowledge and feelings in a group decision-making situation.

  • Calculate the real risks (both to yourself and to the organization) of speaking up, or not speaking up.  Are your expectations of what will happen if you speak out against a decision realistic or have you exaggerated them in your mind? Think about the consequences to the team or organization if the decision does, indeed, turn out to be flawed.  How will you feel if that happens?
  • Confront your fear of separation.  As humans, we sometimes fear that presenting an opinion contrary to what others are saying will be label us a “non-team player” and/or cause us to be alienated from the group. Ask yourself this question: would you rather be liked by your fellow team members or valued for what you contribute.  You stand to make the biggest impact on your team’s success when you honestly share your knowledge, opinions and experiences.
  • As a group, work together to make sure people are properly prepared for meetings and that your group maintains a climate of open participation.  What needs to change about what happens before meetings so that people come prepared to discuss the pro’s and con’s of an issue/decision?  What can you do differently during meetings to encourage everyone’s involvement and to make it safe for people to speak up?

*Excerpted from the CRM Learning program, The Abilene Paradox, Second Edition.

Need more help in this area? CRM Learning’s all time best-selling video program, The Abilene Paradox, shows how group decisions get derailed when group members are not honest with their input. Viewers are given a number of tips for helping groups avoid “false consensus”.

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