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Speak your truth, live your truth, the freelance way

Recent research alerts us to a serious and genuine problem in the workplace: Employees can’t speak up about problems, which loses organizations their time and money. The problem is so pervasive it’s a disaster. And the solution is freelancing. (Keep reading for justification.)

Dimensions of the problem

Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, authors of the bestseller Crucial Conversations, report that these conversation failures are rampant and costly.

They observe that only one percent of employees surveyed feel “confident in voicing their concerns in crucial moments.” In practice, this means that staff won’t challenge senior management. They endure long meetings without pointing out problems, fallacies, errors in judgment, and coworkers who are not pulling their weight.

Workers may gripe to others of similar rank . . . and they certainly spend hours stewing . . . but they don’t dare speak up when it counts for fear of their careers falling apart.

The authors find five common conversations that are not held, or at least, not held effectively:

  • Prickly peers, including bullies and those who resist feedback and input. Sometimes they withhold information or disrespect coworkers.

  • Ticking time bonds, defined as failing to point out when proposals and procedures are incorrect or poorly reasoned.

  • Lazy and incompetent colleagues who bring down the work of others.

  • Abusive bosses who use their position to control while suppressing open communications.

  • Management failure. Poor management practices, combined with a lack of safety for employees to voice concerns.

Certainly we’ve all observed such problems but let’s consider the biggest problem: 99% of employees do not feel confident in voicing their concerns in crucial moments. Why?

The survey report doesn’t answer this question, but here’s one reason for starters: in the U.S. employees can be fired at will for any reason that does not involve discrimination against a protected class, (e.g., race, gender, religion, etc.)

The solution? Freelancing.

The media portray freelancers as spoiled children (of all ages) who have to have everything their own way and relish the opportunity to live as immaturely as they wish.

If I read one more thing about how the best people are ditching THE M-A-N so they can enjoy the wonderful freelance life they deserve, complete with total freedom and the flood of money they so richly deserve, I think I’ll puke.

The J-O-B is so oppressive, goes the logic, while self-employment is fun, fun, fun for those of us superior people with the ambition and smarts to take the leap.

Freelancing gives us the opportunity to work mere hours a week, it is implied—unless you read other expert freelancers who claim to toil 70 to 80 hours. No one, it seems, puts in 40 hours and achieves work / life balance.

Freelancing: A more mature picture

But perhaps the real reason is how intolerable the communications climate is at so many companies. Workers must stand by and watch the train wreck approaching. Disaster is on the way.

Furthermore, the risk of speaking up is so great they can’t say anything. Yet they also may be let go or be the fall guy when disaster strikes.

If so many people fear speaking up, the problem must be real. It’s not just a few chickens among the many.

Thank God for the freelance option

This means that freelancing is, in part, a revolt away from the stultifying corporate client. We leave for self-preservation and the right to speak up without throwing away our sole income source.

This is a very realistic key to the freelancing decision, quite apart from that blissful freedom freelancers supposedly enjoy.

Originally posted 1-22-17

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