Bravery in the Workplace

Last night, my company held a panel discussion on bravery. Our employee resource group, the Women’s Leadership Network, hosted the event and put together a panel of our Chicago employees from various levels and backgrounds in the organization. They each shared their stories on what being brave in the workplace meant to them and what it means at our organization. It was honest, raw, vulnerable, and refreshing.

And the end of the panel discussion, there was a chance for Q&A. One audience member described a situation at a previous employer and wondered if it was brave to stick it out in a bad situation or was it brave to leave the situation? One of the panel members answered it perfectly. He said, “It depends.” He went on to describe that each situation is going to be different for each person. There is no one right answer or way to define what bravery means because it can show up differently for everyone.

After this event, I thought about what “being brave” means to me. I went into the evening thinking I had a pretty good idea. Hey, I’ve read one Brene Brown book. My Starbucks order is intentionally a Grande Bold with no room for cream. I want to fill that cup with every bit of boldness and bravery as I start the day. I think I’m brave in the decisions I make at work and the role I plan as an HR professional. And I realize that some of my decisions may not follow another’s definition of what they think “being brave” is. I’m struggling with it.

It all depends on what we can handle. What is our level of risk and tolerance? What is our support system? Some may choose to stay in a tough employment situation and work to make it a better situation because their options, at the time, may be limited. Being brave for that person may be standing up to that workplace bully or voicing their concerns over unfair practices. Others may choose to be brave and leave the situation for a fresh start. They are brave for mustering up the courage to walk away and figure it out when they are able to clear their head. In both situations, they are brave and demonstrating courage to make themselves better.

There are plenty of examples and definitions of bravery. Countless books, motivational speakers, and internet memes are there to show us the way. Everyone has their own unique story of what being brave means to them and how it helped them. You have your own story.

I’m fortunate to work for an organization that supports and encourages employees to take risks and to be brave. To be decisive and stand up for what they feel is right and to have a voice. And to do so knowing there are others to support them to back them up. As one leader says, “you have us as your safety net.” That safety net wakes me up and gets me to the office everyday. And I still have a lot of work to do.

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