The first is courage. Do you have the courage to walk away from an abusive working environment, a demand for unethical behavior, or an improper relationship? Are you fearful of the consequences? That will certainly be the case if courage is involved, because courage is not the absence of fear but the control of fear. Remember the standard rule in negotiations: The side that cares the least has the most power. We see this power rule in marriages, offices, and politics. By being courageous, we have not removed fear—we've simply decided that something matters more than our fear.
The second quality is discretion. Forget what you've heard about letting it all hang out. There are plenty of times when people would rather experience your caring than your candor. They don't want to learn about your sex life, or whether you wear underwear, or what you think of their spouses. They aren't interested in what you smoked in the Sixties or whether you think they could stand to lose a few pounds. They want discretion.
Now you may say these qualities conflict on occasion, and you'd be correct. There are moments when courage demands less discretion and greater candor, and when discretion restrains courage. Both qualities require the regulator of good judgment. They are essential, however, if you are going to succeed in the workplace and, for that matter, in life. Be brave and be discreet.
Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.