Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Someone Else’s Bad Behavior Is No Excuse For Your Own!

Incivility A Growing Problem At Work

According to this headline (in italics above) on a USA Today story, there are many examples of ungracious behavior at work. For example, a few weeks ago it was reported that Yahoo Chairman of the Board Roy Bostock fired CEO Carol Bartz over the telephone. In a public response, Bartz called the board that dismissed her “doofuses.”

Was this an appropriate response to Bostock's unprofessional behavior?

You have no control over how other people behave, but you do control your response. Someone else’s bad behavior is no excuse for your own. I do know this is a hard concept to accept, yet it’s fundamental to civil behavior at work and elsewhere.

When you meet someone’s bad behavior with rude behavior of your own, you are giving that person power over you, the power to get you upset. In addition, it reflects poorly on you when you act unprofessionally, even if it is in response to another’s bad behavior.

Most of us are not going to be fired by the chairman of the board, but we can encounter rude behavior in the workplace. Here are some suggestions for handling the bad manners of others:

Consider your own behavior. Ask yourself, did I do anything to contribute to the situation? We can be very quick to blame others, yet many times we are part of the problem.

Stay polite. It’s hard to be nasty to people who are nice to you. In today’s tough economic climate, people are doing more with less. Don’t let the niceties suffer. In addition to helping others, simply sharing resources, saying “please” and “thank you,” and greeting people can go a long way toward maintaining good relationships.

Let it go. The rude behavior could be an isolated incident. Many times people don’t mean to say or do rude things. They could be having a bad day, and may even end up apologizing.

Stay professional. You can respond to rude behavior, but keep your comments polite and assertive. Examples include: Did you really mean to say that so harshly?, Why are you saying that?, Help me to understand why you did that, and I‘m offended by that comment.

Appeal to the next level. There may be situations that you cannot handle. Sometimes you may need to go to Human Resources or your boss to resolve a situation.

Additional information on dealing positively with conflict can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation.

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