Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Is Your Co-Worker or Boss a Jerk? 6 Steps to Positive Confrontation

Your co-worker is not doing her fair share on the team project.  

Your employee is chronically late. 

Your boss yells at you in front of your co-workers. 

What can you do about these and countless other annoying, frustrating, or troublesome situations? Many people respond by avoiding their bosses, ignoring co-workers, complaining to others, pounding their fists, or ranting on social media.

They often miss the most effective alternative: confronting positively.

Positive confrontation allows you to confront someone in what I call a “polite and powerful” manner. You are choosing to speak up in a clear, direct, specific, but non-accusatory manner.

So instead of becoming a bully in order to express yourself, or wimping out because you don’t know what to say, try positive confrontation. Below are 6 steps to follow as a guide. (Additional information on “polite and powerful” behavior can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation; a revised and expanded edition has just been published.)

1. Pick your conflict.  You can’t fight them all. You can’t win them all. Pick the ones that matter to you or have an effect on your work. If they don’t, why not let them go?  You’ll be less stressed.

2. Give the person The Jerk Test.  We are very quick to make negative assumptions about others. Yet often we have no idea what is driving the other person’s behavior. If you approach someone convinced that the person is a jerk, it is very easy to explode because “the jerk had it coming!”  If you consider instead that “maybe the person is a jerk, or maybe not – I will find out,” you are less likely to explode.

3. Pick the right time and place.  Confront others in private, and when you are calm. Pick a time that’s good for the other person to talk.  If the person is walking out the door for a meeting, it’s not the time to confront him or her.

4. One issue at a time.  You don’t want to confuse the situation. Keep the discussion to one topic. You are less likely to get side-tracked if you stick to just one issue.

5. Prepare and practice.  You should prepare and practice what you want to say.  You are less likely to explode or wimp out if you do. Remember, your wording should be specific, direct, polite, and non-accusatory. My Don’t Attack’em, WAC’em™ model can guide you.  WAC stands for: What’s really bothering you?; What do you want to Ask the other person to do or change?; and Check-in for the person’s reaction.

For example, suppose a co-worker has been posting photographs of you on Facebook, without asking if you mind – which you do. Here are the steps you might take to WAC’em:
      W = I know you may not see this as a big deal, but I am not comfortable with pictures of me being posted on Facebook without my permission.

      A = Please take them down by the end of the day.

      C = Okay?  

6. Pay attention to your nonverbal body signals.   Have you ever heard yourself saying, “But I didn’t mean it that way!”  Chances are your words said one thing, but your body language or tone of voice sent a different message. Make sure your words, tone, and body language are on the same page.

Learning new skills takes time. Start slowly. Pick simple situations to address, and build your confidence. Over time, you can master positive confrontation.

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on assertiveness, positive confrontation and business etiquette. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at or 856.751.6141.