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How to Respond to These 7 Tricky Work Scenarios

We’ve all been there; the pressure is at an all-time high, your thoughts are going in a million different directions, and one little thing seems to derail your brain and mouth’s ability to communicate. As author of Choke, Sian Beilock teaches, this paralysis occurs when your brain is suddenly overtaxed by worry or pressure leaving you unable to respond to a mental psychological, or emotional challenge in the immediate moment.

It’s commonplace for people to experience these situations at work. To combat the paralysis, practice these tactics and regain situational control.

1. Someone takes credit for your idea

If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s bound to eventually. How do you handle it? Five simple words, when spoken with composure will allow you to reclaims your idea, give you the upper hand when addressing the issue with management, provides an opportunity for a greater ownership stake in the idea, and prevents you from being trivialized by pointing out the misappropriation of your contribution to the idea…

“Thanks for spotlighting my point.”

2. You’re asked to stay late when you’re about to leave the office for a personal obligation

Personal commitments are exactly that, personal. Explaining them to a colleague can cause resentment. The reality is, either your shift is over, your manager has already been notified about an early leave time, or you’ve completed your required tasks for the day and there is no need to explain to someone else why you are leaving. By responding with:

“Excuse me, I have another commitment.”

You eliminate oversharing, establish an information boundary, and provide a respectable implicit request for confidentiality.

3. In a pivotal situation, a trusted colleague snaps at you

When a valued colleague damages your good rapport, a simple phrase can get you both back on track with fact-based, cause-effect dynamic communication that allows both parties to establish mutually affirming conduct in the future. 

“This isn’t about what you do for me. It is about what you did to me.”


4. You have to say “no.”

Saying “no” is usually a universally difficult thing to do in the workplace. Most people view “no” as an unwillingness to go the extra mile or be a team player, however sometimes “no” is necessary. Instead, respond with a more positive affirmation:

“This is a good launching point.”

The positive statement allows you to keep some flexibility about the request while keeping your reputation intact. It also allows you to navigate any difficult waters with a positive and well-thought out approach so you can continue to be a team player. 

5. You have to give negative or awkward feedback to someone you’re close with

It’s never easy being the bearer of uncomfortable or awkward news, but sometimes, being able to deliver news in a calm, yet candid tone can both save a career-altering moment from becoming an alienating outcome and deepen the relationship you have with the other person. When the feedback is tough to deliver, try this collaborative approach:

“I’m here to be for you what someone once was for me.”

This jumping off phrase gives the receiver of the news a moment to brace themselves and then feel more unified because of the shared vulnerability this statement brings.

6. You need to push back on a decision you believe is wrong.

At any stage in your career there may come a time when decisions are made without your input. It’s an often occurrence and can leave an individual feeling apprehensive and conflicted. One simple phrase can both help to get your point or opinion across while still leaving the door open for more communication on the issue.

“This is my preference.”

Simple, straightforward, and to the point.  It expresses an opinion or desire without getting emotional or defiant and shows you’re willing to work with a potentially sensitive issue and that it is important enough, not only to be on your mind, but also your radar for its progress and ultimate conclusion.

7. You need to escalate a serious issue 

Serious situations like sexual harassment, prejudice, bias, etc. can cause complications in the workplace hierarchy. If you find yourself the victim of such a situation, it may be hard to approach either your manager or supervisor, especially if they are the reason for your discomfort.  When talking to HR, some topics still have a level of inconsistency with how managers and HR departments handle complaints. Instead of worrying and stressing about being mistreated again or losing your position, calmly, notate responses provided to you and respond with: 

“Your response gives me cause to take this further.”

This statement shows you’re serious in ensuring this situation isn’t going away regardless of their choice in handling the situation or not and it demonstrates your expectation that the offender receives consequences for their behavior or poor conduct and that you will not suffer for reporting it. It allows you to shift the situation from a position of victimhood to one of empowerment. 

Navigating tricky situations doesn’t have to be complicated. Learning the skills needed to advocate not only for yourself, but your team will strengthen your leadership skills. Contact us today to learn how we can help you and the leaders in your organization grow and succeed. Great leaders grow great businesses.








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