One of the Scrum values is Courage. Kids call them guts. My Spanish-speaking friends call them Cojones. I call them Balls. (The kind of Balls women can have too.)
Whatever you choose to call it, cojones are sorely lacking in Corporate America today. A coworker of mine used to say "You sit in that meeting and there's not a set of balls between 'em!".
Where did all the cojones go?
I sat in a meeting with a man who was about to rollout a really flawed plan. When I asked him why his answer was "My boss said so, and ya know, I have a mortgage." You may have seen a similar scene in the movie "the Big Short" right before S&P helps bring down the whole US economy. It happens everywhere .
Now multiply that spinelessness by thousands of people. And you have a whole company of people willing to knowingly do the wrong thing. Oh I'm not even talking about morally wrong, I'm taking about wrong for the prosperity and success of the company. Your company is working against itself.
What are you afraid of?
Getting fired? As my coworker above says he has a mortgage. If you really got fired, could you get another job? Move into a smaller house? What's absolute worst thing that could happen? My guess is you wouldn't go hungry.
Criticism? There's not doubt, criticism can sting. And it also gives you information about what people don't like. You have a choice on whether or not you accept the criticism. One data point is subjective, multiple data points might be telling you something. Take responsibility for either solving it or rejecting it. Don't waste your time brooding about whether or not it should have been given in the first place, and how that person has faults too. It's not productive.
Shame? "I thought you were smart, but when I look at this report I wonder if you have any sense at all?" That's some shaming right there. You've seen your boss rip people apart and you want to steer clear of that wrath. I get it. This is a tough one because even highly capable people can crumble at the hands of a bully. I've experienced this myself. The things that have helped me have been Mindfulness practice to separate my own emotions from the situation, and ultimately move the bully into solving mode.
Do you feel boxed in? Sometimes people have told me that they have no choice. If you feel this way it pays to spend some time creating options. What can you do so that you have more than one option available to you? Can you lower your mortgage? Can you expand your network or skills to keep yourself marketable? This way you can make decisions that aren't clouded by fear.
It only takes one follower. State your objective or intention. It only takes one person agreeing with you to get traction.
Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him