Solution Saturday: How do I Express Concerns without Losing My Job

Dear Dan,

I work in education. I’m an older union worker, near retirement.

Education is funded, the administrators don’t have to sweat sales. Administrators are not skilled in fiscal responsibility… don’t feel accountable

People hired here usually have some relationship connection – nepotism/cronyism. If you speak to the issues, you are throw literally under the SCHOOL BUS. But administration is sensitive to OUTSIDE criticism.

How can I bring my concerns for ethics, best practices, and leadership without losing my job/benefits/retirement?

I will watch your column for more inspiration.


Dear Watching,

Congratulations on your desire to make a positive difference in your educational organization. You mentioned that you are close to retirement. You could simply drift along. 

Let’s start with the bad news.

Entrenched behaviors require some form of crisis to change. Significant change will be painful. Having said that, I have a few ideas for you to consider.

Think pull, not push:

Never begin a journey until you have a picture of where you want to go. Anyone can point out the bad that exists. Leaders paint a picture of the good that could exist.

What is the win for you, others, your organization? What future might be appealing enough to create pull. You can’t antagonize and influence – in positive ways – at the same time.

You can’t push people into long-term change. They must want it.

Start with your circle:

Watch the movie “Hidden Figures.” I’m so impressed with the way a group of talented black women impacted culture.

  1. Connect with a small group of colleagues who share your concerns. You won’t change much until you convince a few people to make a difference with you.
  2. Make things better where you are. Bring as much value to others as possible, even though others are disappointing. Don’t use the faults of others as an excuse to turn negative.
  3. Identify and embrace two or three behaviors that reflect the type of leadership you aspire to see. Don’t underestimate the power of simple actionable behaviors to make a big difference. Leaders ask questions, for example. Create a whisper campaign where you propagate, encourage, and honor the behaviors that make a difference.

Choose influence over control:

Frustration is often the result of trying to control things – like people – who are outside our control. Forget about things you can’t control. Focus on things within your control. We all become manipulators when we try to control others.

Your health, happiness, and power to influence depend on letting go of things you can’t control.

Be a learner, not a knower:

Leaders are learners. Critics and complainers believe they know more and know better than others. Leaders stay open. Knowing is the end of thought and growth.

Learn all you can about yourself, others, and leading. Reflect on your passions, frustrations, hopes, and desires.

Make yourself proud:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

You may not be able to produce the changes you would like, but you can make a difference. Do things that will make you feel proud when you retire.

Above all, stay positive. Find ways to describe your passion with forward-looking language, rather than backward-facing complaint.

This response is inadequate at best. My hope is that you might find something useful.

You have my best,


What suggestions do you have for ‘Watching for Encouragement’?