The importance of finding and using your voice in the workplace

Finding our voice and fully expressing our needs can be challenging at work, where we may feel the need to suppress aspects of our identity to blend into workplace culture. The drawback to this strategy is that hiding parts of ourselves prevents us from effectively communicating what kind of support we’re needing from our workplace and robs us of our self-agency to shape workplace culture in a way that feels welcoming to all. To explore the topic further, we connected with journalist-turned-content strategist, Amy Wang, who shared a few words about her journey finding her voice in the workplace and in her profession:

Can you share a little bit about your personal journey finding your voice as a writer and as someone who often has thousands of people reading their words?

I grew up with parents who were devoted readers and had a carefully curated home library, so I was exposed early to literary classics in a range of voices and styles. That helped me become a writer. But during my childhood in the 1970s and ‘80s, we didn’t have the wealth of AAPI books that we do now. When I looked for books that I could relate to on a very personal level, I found the works of Black authors. Inspired by them, I started reading and writing personal essays in college. In the workplace I’ve rarely written in first person, but the voice I developed through studying the craft of personal essays has been crucial to my work.

How does finding and expressing our voice in the workplace affect our work and how we work with others?

Finding and expressing my voice in the workplace has helped me clarify the values and goals that matter most to me, focus my energy on those values and goals, and find and connect with others who share similar values and goals. Similarly, when others express their voices, I invariably gain a key perspective I hadn’t considered or valuable information I didn’t have — you don’t know what you don’t know. 

A lot of employees of color don’t consider their workplaces to be safe spaces where they can vocalize their authentic opinions. Do you have any advice on speaking and expressing oneself even during occasions or within spaces we might not feel particularly comfortable?  

Amy’s recommendations: 

– Keep my eyes on the prize: Is my comfort more important than the message I want to convey? I’m human, so I sometimes prioritize my comfort. And sometimes that’s worked out and sometimes I’ve regretted doing so. In the latter case, I learn and move on. 

– Identify the methods of communication — we have so many nowadays — that come most naturally to me and lean into those.

– Seek out allies who will also speak up or at least be supportive, try joining an affinity or employee resource group to meet these people.  

– Create a safe space. I’ve set up a Slack channel, revived a diversity committee and co-founded a local chapter of a professional organization dedicated to diversity and inclusion. If you build it, they will come. And how many people join you in this safe space matters less than who they are.

– Take the long view. Will I look back years from now and wish I had spoken up?

Amy will moderate our upcoming Asian Pacific Islander community resource group event, Finding Our Voices in the Workplace, scheduled for May 25, 2023, from 5:00pm – 7:00pm at the World Trade Center Building 1. This event is open to all of those who identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander and will feature a panel discussion, casual networking, and appetizers and beverages. Click here to register for the event.