You've probably heard the saying "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." While your opinions are probably not foolish, the very nature of opinions means that it is likely that a co-worker or supervisor will hold a different one from you. For this reason, it is wise to withhold your viewpoint on issues that aren't related to your job. When you do offer an opinion, do so intelligently and with kindness.
Risk Versus Benefit
Before you voice an opinion, consider what you have to gain and what you have to lose. For example, if you let everyone in the office know that you hate the new color of the carpet or something else inconsequential, you haven't gained anything but a reputation as a complainer. You may have offended the person responsible for the selection, as well.
On the other hand, offering an opinion can sometimes reap a significant benefit. If your supervisor wants to know whether or not a new sales campaign is likely to work, if you have a well-informed opinion, by all means speak up. If your opinion turns out to be correct, you'll gain credibility.
When you decide voicing an opinion is worth the risk, it's important to do so in a friendly, nonthreatening manner. There's a huge difference between saying "I believe that social media is the best way to launch this campaign" and "You are living in the Stone Age if you aren't considering using social media to launch this campaign." When you express your opinion, you are almost always opposed to someone else who has a different point of view. Be careful not to tread on her feelings, so that the two of you can continue to enjoy a friendly work relationship.
Consider your particular workplace when you are deciding whether or not to tell your team that you believe the proposed schedule of events is lacking pizzazz or that you are concerned about the proposed merger. Look at the higher-ups in the organization. If they're the type to readily express their opinions, your workplace might be a safe environment in which to speak up. On the other hand, if you've noticed that people appear threatened when others express opinions, your workplace may not be conducive to open dialogue. A work environment with poor communication created by fear is likely to experience a drop in productivity, as well.
Make Information Available
While exercising prudence in the workplace is important, it is a mistake to always withhold your opinion. Doing so results in too little information being available for others to be able to make an informed decision. This can create an environment in which poor decisions are constantly made due to employee's' fear of speaking up. For example, your supervisor might decide to extend work hours Monday through Thursday so that everyone can take a three-day weekend, while some employees might not be happy about it. If your workplace engenders this type of fear, many people will likely be upset with this decision, while the supervisor is mystified by the lack of support because of the lack of input she received when she initially brought the idea to the table.
Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.