There’s a lot of sensitivity in the workplace, especially in the presence of change. People get offended, feelings get hurt and blame gets placed on each other. It’s only natural sometimes for us to side with the person who’s the loudest about it, the one who cries to us about it or the one who complains the most. However, I challenge leaders to take a step back in these situations and make sure they truly understand what is going on before responding to a complaint.
Offending someone is a two-way street. There is a party who is offended and we have to determine if that is a subjective feeling or if someone actually did something wrong, especially if it was intentional. Often times, however, I learn that there was no harm done. People get offended because someone didn’t agree with them or someone challenged them. They become defensive and sensitive about the situation. Their feelings are not invalid but that doesn’t mean that the problem is with the other party either.
As a leader, I set two standards in meetings and for my team. The first is to remain professional and respect everyone’s opinion. The second is to challenge each other’s thoughts and opinions. They may seem contradictory at first sight but they are not. While we respect each other, we also need to challenge each other in order to make sure that the best decision is made. Teams that can get to this point without offending each other or getting sensitive to disagreements become high performing groups. They overcome sensitivity and embrace disagreement and honest feedback.
In any situation with emotions, there’s a person who said or did something but there’s also someone who chose to feel a certain way about it. Offending someone is a two-way street. While it’s a hard balance to strike, it is important that leaders can differentiate between when people are being rude or unprofessional and when people are just being overly sensitive and how to handle each situation.
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