When people think of courage in the workplace, they’re likely to focus on first responders and other professionals with high-risk jobs. But courage can take many forms and be found in all fields — STEM, teaching, nursing, and the retail and restaurant industries, to name a few.
For example, if you know that a colleague is using illegal substances on their breaks, would you have the courage to speak up? If your opinion differs from those of your colleagues but you think your idea could solve a pressing problem, would you have the courage to say something? Or, if a manager asks you to run a personal errand for them on your day off, would you be brave enough to say no?
Wherever you work, courage is a necessary virtue that organizations should cultivate. Below are a few steps you can take to develop and refine workplace courage.
Different Types of Workplace Courage
Courage comes in many forms. In some instances, courage prompts employees to step up as whistleblowers. For example, former DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi, who also holds pharmacy and law degrees, publicly alleged that the pharmaceutical industry was fueling the nation’s opioid crisis. In multiple interviews, Rannazzisi reported that pharmaceutical companies were not only dumping prescription opioids into U.S. communities but also encouraging doctors and pain clinics to distribute them to patients who had no legitimate need for them.
Other types of workplace courage that don’t thrust workers into the limelight are just as important. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and take on a project that others have been unsuccessful with. For managers, courage in the workplace can involve overcoming the tendency to micromanage and maintain control and being more trusting of their staff’s capabilities.
For others, workplace courage can inspire someone to stand up when they see colleagues being treated poorly or discriminated against because of their age, race, or sexual orientation. Individuals who blow the whistle on malfeasance or poor treatment can prompt positive changes in their workplace.
Why Organizations Need Courage in the Workplace
Organizations across industries benefit from brave, principled employees. Courageous workers often make better leaders. Strong leaders understand how to make reasoned judgments and aren’t afraid to be assertive and take calculated risks. Courageous workers also may find more opportunities to succeed, whether they’re salespeople who aren’t afraid to go after difficult clients or interns who volunteer to take on more responsibility and are rewarded with full-time positions.
Studies have shown that organizations that work to build trust and courage in the workplace have happier and more productive employees. A recent report by Accenture found that individuals who work for high-trust companies, where employees are encouraged to be innovative and think boldly, experience 74% less stress, are 50% more productive, take 13% fewer sick days, and are 76% more engaged than those who work for low-trust organizations.
How to Be More Courageous in the Workplace
If you’d like to become more courageous in the workplace, you can take several steps to achieve your goal.
- Be mindful of your perspective. Instead of saying “I can’t do this,” say “I can’t do this yet, but I can learn.” Think of challenges as learning opportunities.
- Make a list of your strengths. Knowing what you’re good at — whether it’s problem-solving, computer coding, mentoring, or closing tough deals — can boost your confidence. If you’re interested in learning more about your strengths and talents, consider taking an online personality inventory, such as the CliftonStrengths assessment. This one-hour, 177-question “test” assesses participants’ natural patterns of thinking and then provides them with personalized insights about their strengths and weaknesses in areas such as strategic thinking, relationship building, and influencing, among others. Maryville students are given the opportunity to participate in the CliftonStrengths assessment free of charge.
- Make a list of best- and worst-case outcomes. Focusing on positive outcomes can help make them a reality and give you the courage to move forward; conversely, facing your worst fears head-on can take away their power.
- Step outside your comfort zone. Workplace courage is a muscle that needs to be exercised. The more you use your courage muscles, the stronger they’ll become. If you’re nervous about traveling alone to an upcoming conference, consider going out to dinner by yourself to get used to dining alone. If you’re unsure about speaking up about corporate policies, practice voicing your concerns to a friend.
Cultivate a More Courageous You
People who show courage in the workplace are more confident and more likely to be tapped for leadership positions, and they often have more career advancement opportunities. If you’re interested in taking the first brave step toward advanced leadership roles in your industry, or even shifting careers entirely, consider how an online degree program can help. Read more about how the online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs at Maryville University can prepare you for a more courageous future.
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60 Minutes, “Ex-DEA Agent: Opioid Crisis Fueled by Drug Industry and Congress”
Accenture, “The Importance of Building Trust in the Financial Services Workplace Explained in 6 Eye-Opening Statistics”
Forbes, “5 Steps to Being More Courageous as We Return to Work”
Human Synergistics International, “Creating a High Trust Culture: Who Is Responsible?”
Leadership Now, “Three Types of Workplace Courage”