A Bit of Advice: Speak Up


Christopher Ekimoff, CFE, CPA
Manager, Investigative Accounting & Financial Litigation, Duff & Phelps
Washington, D.C.

As a boisterous child, I never found it hard to speak up. Whether shouting out a response without raising my hand or sharing my thoughts during lunch with a friend a few tables away, speaking up got me noticed early on (and not always positively). That characteristic has transitioned into my career as well. I’m always the first to comment on the quality of the food I’ve ordered or the potential inefficiencies in a particular process.

The idea of “speaking up” has grown in the media and around the business world in recent years. In light of the 2008 financial crisis, more and more investors, Congressional committees and regulators have asked, “Why didn’t more people speak up?”

In the May/June issue of Fraud Magazine, Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and keynote speaker at the upcoming ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Las Vegas, Nev., outlines his focus on creating an environment that supports whistleblowing:

“First, there has to be a culture in which people who see something bad going on feel comfortable coming forward, and second, people who are taking in the complaints have to be smart enough and care enough to do something about it.”

In career terms, speaking up can be daunting. From reporting questionable behavior to inquiring about a specific task, fear of judgment by a superior can silence even the most confident individual. Often, however, the worry is twice as bad as the result. Speaking up to your superior about any number of issues can also work in your favor:

  • Speaking up shares ideas – For any continually successful team, office or firm, sharing ideas and diverse viewpoints is necessary. By soliciting and valuing the opinions of all members, solutions come more easily and are more readily implemented.
  • Speaking up differentiates you – A team member willing to share his or her ideas demonstrates confidence, a mastery of a certain set of tools and the ability to work collaboratively in a team setting.

Sure, we can’t all be famous whistleblowers. And being a whistleblower is hard. Harry Markopolos shared his take on Bernie Madoff with numerous government regulators, industry publications and media sources without being heard. Michael Woodford was fired as CEO of Olympus and shunned by his colleagues after reporting his concerns of improper write-offs to the Board of Directors. But, in time, their honesty and integrity erased any stigma that originated with speaking up.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you don’t, who will?