Fifty Shades of (Yes) Grey

This version will (unfortunately) not include the sex part, only the ‘grey’ part (so sorry to disappoint). It may not be quite as exciting as the book, but there’s a good chance that it will prove to be more valuable to you in the long run.

You may have noticed that most respect-related situations in the workplace are not clear-cut, black-and-white scenarios. In fact, most often they are somewhere in that ‘grey’ zone – hard to diagnose, and difficult to address constructively without hitting the wrong note.

So, if you’re going to respond to something that someone did or said that you found offensive, it will be prudent to adopt Stephen Covey’s advice: “Begin with the end in mind”.  Responding to an off-colour remark or to uncivil behaviour will be much easier and effective – and require less courage – if you have clear objectives before you set out to speak with the person.

Here are the three objectives that should guide absolutely any intervention you initiate:

  1. Stop the behaviour. Whatever you do, it has to convey the message that the behaviour has got to stop. Be direct and specific in describing the problem conduct, and very clear about your request for it to stop. Beware of using humour – it detracts from the clarity of the message.
  2. Maintain everyone’s dignity. It’s very easy to intervene in a harsh way that ends up being hurtful or degrading to the other person, adding injury to insult. So make sure to use language and a tone that conveys respect and collegiality. Maintaining the dignity of the other person (or persons) is especially important if you are responding in public to a problem behaviour.
  3. Preserve the relationship. Workplace relationships can easily go sour. A wrong word or gesture can be the trigger for long-lasting conflict. So whatever you do when you approach that person, remember that your objective is to preserve (and possibly even strengthen) the relationship, not ruin it. An awareness to this objective will help you maintain the right tone and approach.

  P.S. to boost capacity in handling all ‘shades of grey’, you’re always welcome to check out our training-related services.


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This entry was posted in Blog, Harassment, Leadership, Respectful Workplace, Workplace Incivility. Bookmark the permalink.


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