How to speak up if you feel unsafe in your workplace

1 minute read | 4 May 2022

From time to time, we may experience uncomfortable situations at work. But it is important to be able to identify what is an unsafe space and where your limits lie. 
Problematic situations or behaviours at work, whether physical or psychological often cause a great deal of anxiety, resulting in long-term stress or physical risk.
These days, it is often assumed that the correct procedures are in place to ensure the health and safety of employees, but sometimes we may find ourselves in an environment which is toxic enough to affect our psychological and mental health. 
If quitting your job is not an option, then we will outline the best ways on how to speak up if you feel unsafe in your workplace.

Know that you're not alone.

Whenever we find ourselves in a stressful situation, we often feel like we are the only ones dealing with it. Feeling alone in this situation often leads to low mood, anxiety and a blow to our confidence. 
It can be very isolating, like we can’t speak up or contribute, but chances are your teammates have also experienced this feeling.
Reaching out to a colleague can help create a support network, and you may find that their experiences have been the same as yours. Think about initiating lunch outings where you can speak away from the work environment, in order to feel safer expressing your concerns.

It's never too late to implement boundaries.

Personal boundaries are life-skills in communicating and asserting personal values to protect against having them violated. It is never too late to instil them. 
Explore any reasons why you may feel you don’t deserve to have a voice or consider that anyone making you feel unsafe may be projecting their own insecurities on you. 
Changing the way you speak, is a small step in re-claiming authority over yourself and standing out as a professional with boundaries. Start by using phrases to help you speak up and sound more confident at work, such as “I look forward to hearing your thoughts.” Instead of “If that makes sense.” Another example is, instead of saying “I can’t” say, “Here’s what I can do for you”. 
Give yourself permission to call someone out when they have crossed the line. If you are worried about repercussions, know that you have acted professionally and that their reactions are not your responsibility. 

Speak to HR or someone you trust within the team.

If you have a HR team to speak to, you have the right to raise any concerns with them. It is their job to maximise employee productivity and protect the company and team members from any issues that may arise in the workplace. 
If there is no HR in place, approach your manager about the toxic behaviours you are experiencing. A good manager will act right away, to ensure any issues are addressed. However, if this isn’t the case, you will at least have it on record you filed a complaint. 

Talk it out.

Assess whether it is a good idea to speak to the person making you feel this way. There could be a chance they are willing to listen and be more considerate in the future.
You can do this one-on-one, or in a meeting with a manager or HR representative present. It may be in your best interest to have a witness to the discussion, to monitor the productivity of resolving the issue.
If you still feel like you are unable to speak up and the communication from both sides is failing, try and ask to be moved to a different team or sector. 

Consider what you can and cannot control.

You are not responsible for other people’s toxic behaviour - but you can control how you react to it. If you are in a position where you cannot quit your job, you still retain the right to leave the room if you are being made to feel uncomfortable or bullied.

When employees feel safe, they trust they can admit their mistakes or fail in something without extreme consequences. It is in the best interest of the business to instil this in their company culture, to allow the workflow to be more productive.
Therefore, you will be contributing to a higher company standard in the long run, by speaking out against toxic behaviours.

Take on board these steps moving forward, and understand you are not the only person to have experienced these feeling in the workplace. Working on your own communication skills can be a huge help to those around you, to understand where your limits lie, as well as building confidence in the long run.

If you are still struggling to speak up in the workplace, the following gov website can help.

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