How to Say What You Really Think in a Toxic Environment | Fierce

How to Say What You Really Think in a Toxic Environment

Let’s have some real talk for a moment: Have you ever told someone —your boss, a colleague, customers, or your spouse — what you thought they wanted to hear rather than what you were really thinking? Did you paint a false, rosy version of reality and gloss over the problems or pretend that it didn’t exist?

If you’ve found yourself being less than honest, know that you aren’t alone by a long shot.

The thing is, we have legitimate reasons for why we don’t want to fully disclose. Maybe last time you told your honest truth, it destroyed a relationship in your past, and you don’t want to do that again. Perhaps you have seen someone lose their job over disclosing more, and you happen to like your job. Maybe you truly don’t believe it is your place to say what you notice or feel (this is a popular one).

The kicker is that not sharing the whole truth is more costly in the end.

If you are out of integrity with yourself or others, research shows that it damages your health and wellbeing. Whether you’re not sharing your truth at work or at home, not being your authentic self can lead to loss of time, money, and/or complete failure to thrive.

That’s not a pretty picture. But you can empower yourself to become a fierce leader — a leader who comes out from behind what is holding them back and shows up every day as their authentic, true self.


Fierce leaders want to know the truth and in turn, also have to share the truth. Whether or not your role has the “leader” title assigned to it, you can be someone on the forefront innovating and promoting authenticity.

Organizations that encourage everyone, from individual contributors, managers, all the way up to the CEO, to take on a leadership mindset create cultures that don’t settle for a culture of fear.

Few companies are really in this place. Many choose to abide by an old rank and file hierarchy that squashes creativity, promote false security, and inevitably disengaging employees.

So what can you do if you work inside a culture where new ideas and honesty are not welcomed? Do you have to accept it for what it is and keep your creativity to yourself?

No, you absolutely do not.

The beauty of culture is that it is made up of the people who inhabit it. Meaning, everyone impacts how things operate, not just those at the top.

Here are three tips to propose new ideas and begin creating a culture that supports authenticity:

Tip #1: Lead by Example

This isn’t a blog that encourages you to throw caution to the wind and break the rules of your company and go spouting off every thought you have to your boss. However, I bet your organization has unwritten cultural norms that keep people from fully coming forward and innovating.

These issues can range from not bringing up a perspective in a meeting because you don’t want to rock the boat, to continuing a process that is outdated only because it is the way things have always been done.

Take this opportunity to start small and be the change you want to see. If you own a responsibility and you have an idea of a better way of doing it – do it. Try it out and create some metrics for yourself to see if it really does improve results. Keep track of those metrics and after a month, show it to your supervisor, pointing out how your new idea has worked.

Tip #2: Use Your Voice

A leadership mindset is not for the faint-hearted. It takes courage to put yourself out there and be the one who speaks to an issue honestly. The reward is that you directly impact how things happen and become a more active participant within your company.

If you’re in a meeting, use your voice. If someone has a different opinion than you about a topic, don’t sit there and internally stew about it. Voice your concerns and throw your own idea in the ring. If you’re not invited into the decision-making process and you have a strong opinion, even if it goes against everything your culture stands for, set up a time to speak with leaders and express your concern.

Make it clear that you understand it’s ultimately their decision, and you hoped to just share your perspective.  This can be very scary and not easy to do. However, it shows others within your organization that you have great ideas and that you care.

Tip #3: Keep Going

Let’s say you do tips one and two and have success, and you’re feeling pretty good about your job. So what’s next? Keep Going.

Let’s say you follow through with tips one and two, and it didn’t work out as well as you had hoped. You are probably slightly discouraged. What’s next? Keep Going.

The reality is being a leader isn’t a title, it’s a mentality. Innovating, being authentic and thinking outside the box are traits of productive individuals, and they take practice.

Realize that your job satisfaction rests mostly in your own power and that you can impact the day-to-day outcomes of your job. Even within a culture that doesn’t foster creativity and doesn’t empower honesty, there is room for you to be creative and lead the way to show those around you that they can go against the status quo and see positive results for the organization and for themselves.


Top talent leaving due to a culture of fear? Find out what conversation can help you make a change.

Get the convesation tool today >

Share This