I got an email from one of the readers of the blog asking my perspective on a particular situation in the office.
Today one of my co-workers showed up wearing a button on shirt declaring “Not my freakin’ problem.” I sure could use an encouraging word giving some guidance/insight on how to deal with this type of behavior
- Diffuse the situation with a “do it for the kids” approach – Try something like I know the button’s a joke but I don’t want the younger staff to get the wrong idea as many of them are trying to figure out proper boundaries in the working world. Seeing such a mixed message from someone they look up to could be exactly what they need to make a horrible decision at the worst time (in front of a client).
- Ask for an unreasonable “favor” – Try saying something like I know this sounds ridiculous but I find it more difficult to talk to you when you wear this button. And if I feel that way, I can only imagine how others feel that haven’t know you as long as I have.
- Talk to your manager – Letting your manager have tough conversations like this can often be an effective way of handling this type of situation. The problem is once you go to the manager, a couple of things can happen. First, you could come off as juvenile because you couldn’t go and have the conversation yourself. Or your boss might completely agree and thank you for calling it out. Who knows…
The other thing that happens is you lose control of the situation. Your boss might agree with you but throw you under the bus when having the discussion with your colleague e.g. “Eric doesn’t like when you wear that button so…” This doesn’t scream juvenile but it does scream coward, and will quickly cost you the respect of a co-worker that was built over many years.
- Do nothing – At most companies these days, everyone has to take some sort of diversity and inclusion training. In my first training of this type, I distinctly remember having a question drilled into my head on the topic of being inclusive – what difference does the difference make? In other words, you might not like or agree with your colleague’s choice to wear a tacky piece of flair but what impact does it really have on the workplace? If you can’t come up with a solid answer to that question, you probably just want to suffer this one in silence. Sorry but it’s for your own good.
Without being present to see the work environment for myself, I would recommend approach 4. Showing you have a thick skin and won’t overreact to a flippant comment internally may actually strengthen your working relationship with your colleague. Whichever approach you take, facts will always trump emotion so prepare for the conversation accordingly.
If you’d add any other advice or disagree, leave your thoughts in the comments below!