Power in the Workplace :: TRUTH OR … CARE (LESS)? ESSAY (via LinkedIn)

Marion Peck finger

Being a “starving artist” is someone who is living their truth. They are choosing to operate outside of the system they fear PREVENTS them from being authentic to their Self.

So for the rest of us… how do we navigate our ‘truth’ in a system that we feel is a bit cock-eyed?


One that restricts our ability, or even threatens our inclination, to speak up against wrong-doing in the workplace? And which Self do I bring to work again? The one that sits pretty and says nothing? Or…?

How can we be happy in our workplaces when our guts are telling us, something is crooked here!

If you’ve got a conscience, and enough time on your hands to think about what it means to you to live your good values during your 9-5 existence, then incongruities between how you think things should roll, and the reality of how they’re actually rolling downhill crushing peons in the path below, will certainly affect you.

So you need a plan!

The first step isn’t to run for the feel-good, self-help modules about hope on your weekend downtime that will pep-prep you up nice with gloss and solace for Monday morning.

Get heroic and go public!

OK, alright, maybe not. While noble (by this Poet’s standards), it is a risk unless you know you’ll get a book deal out of it that can pay your bills once you’re fired from going vocal and viral. Before you get careless in caring *too much*, LEARN FIRST about the hard-cold reality of power structures, and of the DYNAMIC of speaking truth to power.

Recognize why it’s uncomfortable, starting with this article: 5 Reasons You Don’t Speak Truth to Those in Power & How to Change That.

Getting shut down is the one obstacle I find the hardest to overcome. This is the person who raises his/her voice, gets aggressive and bullies to intimidate a speaker into silence. It’s important to remember when someone does this to you that it’s a tactic that has been learned because it can be effective. ~ Penny Herscher

I’ve met the Voice-Raiser, but beware of the Voice-Tamer! Voice-Raiser amps the volume and stamps their dominance on all audible contribution so they stand alone and rule. Get it? Voice-Tamer lures you in softly with a smile, making you believe where they are guiding you is really nice — like a robber convincing you that you want nothing more than to walk down the dark, solitary alley and give over your handbag, no problem, and take my watch and iPhone, too!

The trick to navigating our professional Self and true Self in the workplace system where Truth and Power wrestle, is to know what is really going on during the match. This means not reeling needlessly in some hell of personal sufferance in the face of perceived injustices pimped by power-pushers.

Instead, being a “Happy Employee” is someone who is living their truths, alright. With an ‘s’. They are choosing to operate within the system they understand limits their full expressions, sure. But they are well-versed at the mechanics of this oppression, and do not take it personally when they’re muted by it.

In this, like Milan Kundera’s character, Chantal, in the novel, Identity, we are wearing two faces.


The one says to the power-pusher, “Wow, you’re an asshole.” The other says, compassionately, “Geeze, you must be under a lot of pressure to be talking to me like this, is the paycheque worth it?”

It’s why we love weekends and holidays so much. Masks are heavy. It’s nice to take them off.

But just as it wouldn’t be appropriate to take your trousers or blouse off in the office, same for masks.

Know when to keep yours on.

Care enough to speak truths, but don’t be careless in your pursuit of truth in an untruthful system.

I’ve always been outspoken and I am very conscious about speaking truth to power, but not everyone likes it. I have found that some people admire me for it, and when I leave a team (a company, or a board) those people will thank me for my contribution. But others think of me as too aggressive and controversial. For those people, it’s a relief when I leave the group. ~ Penny Herscher