Avoid Offending Others
Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes
I will never forget a meeting that I attended when I was an employee at a very large publicly traded corporation. There were about ten attendees, many of whom were new to the company. The head of the sales department, who was on the speaker phone, led the meeting from another location. For over 20 minutes, he released his rage on the rest of us using language unsuitable for even an “R” rated movie. At the end of the meeting, I was in a state of shock. I could not believe that a “professional” would actually behave this way. How did this guy keep his job? The other new employees and I were all extremely offended. When we raised our concern with a member of the management team, who happened to be present during the vulgarity fest, he nonchalantly replied, “Oh, he is always like that.” Shortly after we discovered that just about the entire upper-level management team were all “like that.” From that day on, we lost respect for the management team and without a doubt, productivity suffered greatly.
Some people are more easily offended than others. The fact that some people you will be in contact with are so easily offended is not something over which you have control. You can, however, follow some basic “rules” of etiquette that will help you to avoid social blunders that can get in the way of your success.
Avoid using offensive language. Vulgar language is universally found to be offensive in professional environments. Some of the more sensitive people also are offended by poor use of the English language, overuse of expressions, and even accents. Whether you choose to improve your English skills or get rid of any accent you may have is up to you but avoiding vulgar language is a must.
Avoid making offensive comments. A comment can be a joke, an observation, a quip, or any other use of words to express an idea. Be careful that the content of the comments you make do not single out any sex, race, economic group, or social group. An example of this may be as subtle as referring to the female receptionists collectively as “the girls.”
Avoid offensive actions and behaviors. Use your common sense with this one. In fact, many offensive actions and behaviors are now grounds for immediate termination (as in work, not in life) and some can even lead to criminal prosecution. I once had a meeting with a few executives of another firm. One of the VPs of this firm introduced me to the three other executives in the meeting, but skipped over the secretary who was there taking the minutes. I was personally offended that they felt this woman was not important enough for me to know her name. As a result, I began the meeting with a bad impression that eventually led me to the decision not to do business with the firm.
Please note that I am not casting a moral judgment here. It is, however, a fact that offending others is poor human relations and will get in the way of success. If you choose to use vulgar language, tell offensive jokes, or engage in offensive behavior of any kind outside of your professional life, beware of creating a habit that will undoubtedly find its way into your professional life.
Just by interacting with others, you risk offending someone. Those who speak more, attempt humor, and have more interaction with others are at a greater risk of offending others. The best advice I can give is live with integrity and if you do offend someone, for any reason, do not criticize the person for being too easily offended. Instead, offer a sincere apology and move on. There is a chance that the person whom you offended will respect you even more than before you offended him. Follow the suggestions above and keep your path to success free of these unnecessary obstacles.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)