Does Being Bold Work at Work?

Does Being Bold Work at Work?

She likes bold colors. He has bold handwriting. That was a bold move.

“Bold” has its place, but how well does bold fit in your workplace? What does “bold” actually mean anyway? Is it the same as being aggressive or outspoken or simply standing up for yourself and your work? Is it challenging the status quo or your boss? Is it being creative and doing things differently?

Synonyms for the word “bold” include “fearless, courageous, brave or daring,” also “not hesitating in the face of danger or rebuff.”  On the other hand, it can mean “breaking the rules of propriety, being forward or impudent.”

There may be generational differences in the meaning of the word. Years ago, bold was often used as a nice way to describe someone whose behavior was obnoxious or out of line. Today we are bombarded with slogans and encouragement like, “Just do it,” “Go for it,” “You go, girl,” and “Get out there.” The message seems to be that “bold is better.”

How important is it for you to be bold at work? You do need to stand up for yourself and your ideas, and you deserve credit for your good work. Can you do that without being offensive or without putting others down? The following seven suggestions may help.

1. Choose your words carefully. One of the worst things that can happen is that you appear bitchy and angry or simply obstructive. Watch how others you admire get their opinions and ideas across. For example, instead of blurting out,”That’s a stupid idea,” or, “That will never work,” find a better phrase. One colleague, who never appears offensive uses phrases like, “Let me offer an alternative approach,” or, “Can you say a bit more about ….” Stay away from “playing the devil’s advocate” which just frustrates others. Everyone knows that being the devil’s advocate is simply a guise for blocking an idea.

2. Choose your timing. Being bold may result in acting too quickly. Don’t immediately discount or challenge an idea. Take time to listen and actually understand what is being suggested before you intervene or suggest an alternative.

3. Don’t constantly self-promote. Limit your use of the “I” word. No matter how good you are, no one likes a braggart. If it was a team effort, and even if you were the team leader, use the collective “we” as often as possible when discussing project success.

4. Don’t flaunt boundaries. It probably will never be acceptable to march into your boss’ office to tell her she is wrong about something. Going over your supervisor’s head to get your idea heard almost always backfires. If business attire is requested, dress appropriately.

5. Make your case with thought and data. It may seem bold to demand that you should be paid more, but you will have a better chance of success if you can document what you have accomplished and why you deserve the increase.

6. Stand up for yourself, but do so with facts, grace, and humor. Again, choosing your words and managing the passion in your voice will go a long ways. Saying, “I’d like to clarify something,” is better than, “Bob doesn’t know what he is talking about,” or, “You know that’s not accurate.” If you miss the opportunity to stand up for yourself at the moment, revisit the situation with your colleague or boss. Just don’t come off sounding whiny and defensive or argumentative.

7. Does being bold include challenging your boss? The answer is “perhaps.” Some bosses and organizations encourage creativity, debate, and dialogue. Other places are more hierarchical and believe in a chain of command. Once again, tempering your approach and words can go a long ways.

Sometimes it is essential to be bold, especially when confronting harassment, unfairness, or sexism.  At those times, boldly standing up for yourself is critical. Other times, boldness can result in negative responses from colleagues and supervisors. Being bold can shout that you are a risk taker (which can be negative or positive) or that you are impulsive. Think about the message you are trying to send and use boldness accordingly.

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