Have You Convicted Your Co-Worker of Being Nasty?

Judge with gavel

In a court of law, for some offenses there needs to be a clear intention to be found guilty of a crime. Yet in the ‘law of peers’ at work, people are often convicted of being angry, hurtful, rude without a trial. This is especially true with communication.

How many times have you been in a vulnerable emotional space when reading an email or during a conversation and quickly leaped to the conclusion that the person did not have your best interests at heart or that they intended harm?

Perhaps you decided they meant to be insulting, so maybe were curter in your response to them? And in response to you, they are even terser. The sad part is in some workplaces, the cycle can go on and on for years without being addressed.

What if you add the dynamic of gossip to this? Well, then it simply takes on a new lifeform – one of judgement and condemnation. You see, in unhealthy team environments, gossip often keeps alive inaccurate perceptions – and actually adds fuel to them. The good old brain starts to pump dopamine through it in response and everyone who is gossiping gets a false sense of connection and it feels good. In this process, you have all stepped up as judge and jury and have convicted the other person – without the benefit of a conversation.

Next time you are involved in communication that is strained in some way, I strongly encourage you to step back and ask yourself,

  • “What’s a more generous version of what happened?”
  • “Could I be interpreting this wrong?”
  • “How am I thinking or feeling that’s impacting my experience in a negative way?”

Then go and speak directly with the individual involved. Oftentimes, they were stressed and not paying attention to how they shared their message. As a coach, I’m simply shocked at how many times I give professionals feedback about their communication style and hear, “why did no one ever tell me about this??”

We all see and hear communication through or own lens or biases. If we believe the person has our best interests at heart, we are likely to give them some slack. However, if we’ve decided that another person is miserable and nasty we run the risk of not truly connecting to the person.

Check your biases at the door – when you feel vulnerable, what do you tend to think others are doing to you? Own it and go and speak directly with the other person with the intention to clear up any misunderstandings and to improve your working relationship.

Give both yourself and them the benefit of the doubt and go and when you speak with them. Chances are they weren’t intending harm and didn’t realize how they delivered their message. You can step down as the judge and become a respected and valued team member.

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