Daily Archives: September 24, 2012

Diplomacy in the Workplace

There is nothing worse than when three minutes of your day have the impact to create a bad day. But sometimes you get thrown into a situation that catches you off guard or shocks you so much, that the filter in your brain quits working and you spout out the first thing you think of. Rarely does this end well, especially at work where people don’t love you like family or a best friend, and are slower to forgive you.

Here are a few situations where taking a few seconds to breath and think clearly can help you be more diplomatic in the workplace.

When An Action Shocks You
We typically don’t set out to lack diplomacy, but sometimes you are so shocked that you forget to think before you react. Being diplomatic doesn’t mean you don’t address something, it just means that you address it tactfully. A simple format for slowing down and thinking about this is to follow the pro/con/pro approach. This means to start with something positive, address your concern, then end on something positive. Here is an example of pro/con/pro: “I appreciate that you’re here to help (pro), but we can’t be joking around with equipment like that, it’s too big of a risk (con). Now, I know you’re really good at this, so let’s get started (pro).”

When Someone’s Lack of Understanding Frustrates You
When you can’t seem to find clarity in a discussion, instead of stating your opinion again, or explaining something for the third time, take a break from acting like the expert and try a fresh approach. Try offering options to see if you can get clarification, obviously if your solution was the only one, than you wouldn’t be in this situation, so open the discussion up a bit. For example, “We could empty all the boxes and then sort the parts, or we could sort the parts as we empty the boxes, which do you think?” Sometimes, instead of digging in your heels, you need to offer a few options to see what idea is chosen.

When the Topic of Conversation is Inappropriate
It can be hard to refrain from abruptly stopping a conversation you think is inappropriate. As a co-worker, you really aren’t in a position to regulate the actions, conversation, or opinion of others. You are also not in a position to belittle someone or take up a debate at work. But sometimes something sparks and you find yourself in a situation like this. The important thing is to realize it as quick as possible and end it. You can demonstrate discretion with a simple and gentle statement like, “Well I hear your opinion and while this is an interesting conversation I don’t think we agree, which is totally ok.” Then just casually walk away or state what you are doing next, like, “Now I better get down to the mail room” or “I need to get back to my phone.” The important thing here is to make sure your tone is approachable and light, and make sure your body language matches this. You don’t need to feel dragged into a situation just because you took the bait at first, knowing how to walk away gracefully is a talent worth learning.

Do you have a story of when your discretion saved your workplace reputation? Share it here and let others learn the best way out of a sticky situation at work.