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Freedom of Speech in the Workplace

01 Mar 2024

Whilst the workplace is a melting pot of attitudes and opinions it is still important to have a level of freedom of speech to express our responses to our environment.

When we are listened to, we feel far more invested in the future of our workplace.

Many schools and education institutions fear negative feedback. When instruction and direction comes from the top down, we can often feel separated from the outcome. Once we start to disapprove of what is happening around us, we can be quick to share our feelings with others.

I have been lucky to work in a place where we are (to some degree), allowed to share our reactions to what is going on.  We know, because we are in a secure environment that if we are not able to ‘vent’ to colleagues, we might act in a way that could trigger dissent in others!

Create if you can, a safe place where you can share.

When we feel stressed, it is important to dissolve our worries as quickly and as safely as possible

  • That might mean seeking out an empathetic colleague
  • Approaching your work’s counselling or support team
  • Talking to your wellbeing or pastoral care personnel (they’re not just for students!)

If you are not able to do that immediately, set up your own ‘Conversation on The Inside’.

I have recently been including this in Exam Stress Workshops.  It is just one of a number of Mindful exercises that help us voice our worries in a non- threatening space – in our own heads!

This is how it works:

Think about the conversation you want to have with someone (maybe yourself or whoever pushed you into this temporary meltdown)

  • Before you start, get clear on how you will mentally create the right atmosphere for repairing or building relationships
  • Imagine your conversation having the positive outcome you want
  • What do you need to say or share?
  • What would your identified individual or individuals say back to you?
  • Set the scene. See those you bring into your conversation able to speak respectfully to one another in the spirit of harmony. Listen to all the opinions and continue to direct the proceedings from the safety of your conscious mind
  • Know that whatever concerns you, WILL be resolved during your ‘Conversation on the Inside’ or that you will get some insight into how this could be resolved to your satisfaction, in the near future.
  • This is a virtual conversation where you are completely in charge of your thoughts, words, feelings and reactions.

(NB – I do this myself when I have a challenge with someone and I find I am not able to physically put myself in their presence, or I choose not to!)

This only needs to take a few minutes. If you feel unable to speak out your worries or fears with another, then imagine yourself doing it.  Notice any upset leaving you and see any negative feelings dissolve whilst you say what needs to be said.

I know that not all of us feel we have the freedom to express ourselves to Management, for fear of any number of reprisals.

Remember that it is the emotion behind our conversations that is often more of a problem that the content or context.

Try to diffuse any high emotions before you engage with others. When we take the emotion out of a problem, things get altogether less troublesome.

Freedom of speech should not be taken literally.  As we work with others, we do need to appreciate how they might interpret or take our conversations.  If we pepper our words with profanity or aggression, any freedom we feel we have to express ourselves may have a negative effect. 

Rather than releasing tension it might create more problems than we had in the first place.

Always ‘temper’ any chat with consideration for the reactions of the other person.  You can be in control of your own conversations, but you can never totally predict the responses of others to YOU and your situation.

Either way – physically or virtually face-to-face, remember that whilst you may be reacting to YOUR own feelings, so is everyone else!

The words you say will not be the lasting memory others have of any conversation. It is ALWAYS the feelings they triggered that linger in our hearts.

Bananarama had something to share with us all those years ago:

“It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it …”

Love and light


Would you like to share a workshop on Communication with Colleagues with your staff? Download my Speaker Pack here

Want to share Mindfulness with your Exam Students? I’ve 2 new Exam Resilience day workshops – a Thought Leader workshop for Teachers and an Exam Resilience workshop for Students