There are going to be times at work when someone says or does something that is offensive, abrasive, or rude. If you're like me, non-confrontational that is, speaking up in the moment is not your forte.
It's easier to internalize and harbor resentment or, pretend like the situation never happened. As you can imagine, there are issues with both approaches.
By harboring a situation, you give it power over your focus and performance at work. One of my favorite quotes on the subject comes from author Jonathan Lockwood Huie, "Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace."
Also, ignoring a situation and pretending as if it never happened only ensures that it will. The person may repeat the behavior because they never realized it was offensive, or because they have never been confronted.
Instead, your best option is to speak up and address the behavior.
Your approach is key. Taking an accusatory tone and trading insults will further damage the relationship. With work, you don't have the option of avoidance either. You'll need to be able to state your case civilly and respectfully if you want to preserve the relationship and move on.
Here are three steps you can take to address offensive behavior without burning a bridge in the process.
Compose yourself and give them the benefit of the doubt.
It's crucial to approach conversations like these after you've decompressed and can communicate calmly and respectfully. Choosing an accusatory tone will only put the other person on the defensive closing them off to constructive feedback.
To ensure they hear you out, give them the benefit of the doubt, don't make any assumptions, and keep an open mind. In situations like these, most people don't realize that they've said or done something offensive.
"Hey, John. Do you have a couple of minutes to chat? I wanted to talk about a comment you made the other day that I found offensive."
Make sure the other person knows how it made you feel.
To ensure that the conversation doesn't turn into the blame game, stick to how the other person's comments/actions affected you. When you do, use "I" statements. "I-statements," force us to take responsibility for what we are thinking and feeling and prevents us from blaming others. With "I-statements," we can still be assertive, but find a less hostile, more compassionate way to communicate," according to Tony Robbins.
After you share the issue, give the other person a chance to respond without interrupting. Give them a chance to apologize and correct the behavior.
"During our meeting last week, I was a little taken back and embarrassed when you interrupted and objected to my idea in front of the team. I felt like it undermined my decision making capability."
Thank them for listening.
Let them know you are sincere about maintaining a professional and positive relationship, and that you appreciate their willingness to listen.
"I know that it wasn't your intention to sound defiant. Our relationship is important to me, and I didn't want this to affect our ability to work together negatively. Thank you for listening, and I appreciate the opportunity for open communication."
Most offensive situations at work are due to miscommunication. Don't give something that was said the power to impact your productivity and work quality negatively. Use this simple three-step process to address the issue and move on quickly.