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August 10, 2016

What I Didn’t Say: A Practice in Integrity

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A few years ago I was in a meeting and I didn’t say what I wanted to say to my boss. He wanted to promote a new person into a key position who had never worked with us before. A group of us all sat in the room listening to him make his case. I sat there with a knot in my stomach and said nothing. Of course after the meeting a few of us got together and talked about what a bad idea the whole thing was.  

Fast forward a year later. The promoted person was a disaster. The metrics of his department weren’t being met and he was struggling. And, I sat there saying nothing again, as we all discussed what to do about it full well knowing that had I spoken up at the beginning, things may have been different.

I’m not proud of this of course. I can give you a million reasons for not speaking up. The boss really wanted this to occur, it was his horse in the race, not my problem and I didn’t think it would be that bad. I can also justify not speaking up by making the case that the gal (or guy) who speaks first is the one who’s head is on the guillotine for even suggesting something opposite of what the boss wants. The reasons and justifications abound.

Beyond all of those reasons however, there is something else that occurred within me that cost more than bottom line business results or perhaps being disagreed with in a meeting. The truth was, I knew I didn’t speak up and that was costing me more than any of the other catastrophic rationalizations I had made up. It was costing me an inordinate amount of energy to withhold my opinion and to keep managing the fact that I didn’t offer it in the first place. This is what we call being out of integrity. It isn’t a moral thing; it is an energetic one. Integrity means wholeness.   

To withhold our feelings and thoughts leaves us feeling incomplete and not whole. And I am using the word “us” intentionally. The moment that I withheld my opinion potentially cost the business as well as my aliveness. It cost my colleagues too who became stuck in drama, would gossip about the issue, and pretend that we had all the right answers. I wasted months and months of energy watching the scene unfold. You may be thinking that my boss could have heard my opinion and hired this person anyway making my input in the room futile. True. But that isn’t what this is about. It is about my aliveness and being complete within myself.

Fast forward another six months. I did get complete with my boss. I revealed to him that I never told him that I thought the new hire was a bad idea when we he was considering the decision. I owned my vulnerability and fear about what I thought would happen. And now for the crazy part. He revealed that he wasn’t open to feedback like he was pretending to be at the time either. We had a good laugh about it and more importantly, we both finally got our integrity back.

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