Find Your Workplace ‘Voice’

Do you feel like you have an effective voice at work? Not sure what that means? L. Marie Trotter, owner of L. Marie LLC, coaches all of us on how to discover your voice and how to train yourself to use it in the workplace in a way that positively benefits you and those you influence.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a daughter, sister, friend, and business owner of L. Marie LLC, a coaching, communications and publishing agency in Little Rock, Arkansas. When I’m not working, I sing, play tennis, jog a little but mostly walk. Primarily, I am a grateful servant of Jesus Christ, lover of His Gospel, and seeker of God’s good pleasure and will for my life.

How would you define “voice” in a workplace setting? 

In the workplace and every part of life, our voice is a revealer of our attitudes, beliefs, intentions, moods, thought, and values. Voice is about “sound,” yes, but it’s also about “signature.” You can think of your voice as a signature of your authentic self. 

Try thinking of voice from a writer’s perspective. Serious writers often talk about developing their authentic voice. In other words, when they produce an article or book, they want their uniqueness as a writer to be so clear that when you read something they wrote, you know they wrote it without being told. That’s because you recognize their voice – their signature style as a writer and communicator. 

So, take that thought process to the workplace. Imagine there’s a problem that needs solving. However, instead of everyone being allowed to speak openly, they are required to privately record their response, which is then transcribed by some software. No one gets to watch you speak and no one gets to hear your voice. Everyone’s words are on the paper – responder #1, responder #2, responder #3, etc. Would your colleagues be able to identify which response is yours? 

If so, consider how they identified your voice from the others. Were the words on the page logical and clear, full of emotion, or was there a balance? Was there blame about who created the problem, or was there a discussion about the individual strengths of each team member coming together to solve the problem? Did a particular response inspire you? Was one pessimistic, weighing you down emotionally?

Now add the dimension of sound – pitch, sighs, tone, even intentional silence. That’s your voice in the workplace.

What are some of the biggest hindrances to having an effective voice at work?

Everyone’s voice is effective at work. You can use your voice to maintain the status quo – that effectively signals you don’t want to rock the boat. Or, you can use your voice to speak calm and truth in tough situations – that effectively signals you have convictions and standards that are nonnegotiable. You can even remove your voice from certain discourse. 

It’s important to ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your voice at work. Because, sometimes you may accomplish a lot of good that gets you little to no recognition.

Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 talks about a wise poor man who saved a small city through his wisdom. However, after he saved the city, his wisdom was despised, and his words were no longer heeded by the people. So, your voice can be effective at work, and at the same time be unheralded.  

We should be honest with the Lord and with ourselves about what we want to accomplish with an effective voice at work. Whatever that means to you, tell Him and trust what He speaks into your heart and spirit. It’ll be something good for you.

Do you have to be in a leadership position to be able to use your voice?

Not at all. Sometimes we’re hesitant to speak up if we don’t have a workplace title that commands a sense of respect from others. Here’s one way around that. If you don’t believe your voice is authoritative enough to make strong statements, use your voice to ask strong and powerful questions. However, to do this well, you must be tuned in to what people are saying, how they’re behaving, what the real issues are, what’s at stake, etc. So, don’t ask questions just to create sound! Ask questions that show clarity of thought and true awareness. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to find and/or improve their voice at work?

Two Bible verses come to mind:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14, NKJV).

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45, NKJV).

Regarding the first verse, we want to be saying what the Lord wants said in the workplace. It’s easier to say the right things when we mediate on the right things – God’s Word and His faithful in our lives over the years. If the Lord has been faithful at all, He will always be faithful in every area of our lives, including work.

Regarding the second verse, we want to practice speaking truth, not strategy. There’s a saying, ‘Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.’ Our workplaces are filled with people as complex as we are. Therefore, no attempts at strategizing or morphing ourselves or our voices to please them will ever be enough. Do your best at work and be kind to others, but do not attempt to please people beyond what is pleasing to the Lord. He gives us our very breath. We want to use our breath, words, and voice to please Him. He will make us fruitful in the proper season.

L. Marie Trotter is a business writer, book and magazine publisher, speaker, and professional coach. She received her coach training through Erickson College and is a professional credentialed coach through the International Coach Federation. She earned a BA in Professional and Technical Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Master’s in Leadership and Ethics from the John Brown University College of Business.