Y-Comply, a service of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, is a compliance-related article delivered quarterly to subscribers via email.
Most of us have been on one end or the other of either delivering or receiving unpleasant messages and are familiar with the emotion that wells up within us in those situations. Some of us are naturally more emotionally impulsive, but we can all learn to understand and recognize our emotions so that we improve our ability to self-regulate when encountering conversations and situations that are stressful.
Self-regulation means the ability to monitor and control our own behavior, emotions, or thoughts, and adjust them according to the demands of the situation. Emotion is from the Latin word that means “to move.” Our emotions, especially in stressful situations, trigger and move us to a “fight or flight” response and create a chemical reaction that prepares us for battle or for an escape.
When we are self-regulated, we will be more successful at remaining respectful and professional rather than moving into fight or flight (silence). Reacting emotionally (including remaining silent) can be harmful to relationships, trust, and the culture. When we sense strong emotion and the desire to be reactive in our exchange, it’s helpful to “pause for perspective.” The pause is what helps give us a moment to work through that chemical reaction and pull our thoughts together for a well thought out response. Taking a moment to consider others, their dignity, and feelings will help us maintain our composure. Ensuring we’ve heard and understood what the intended message is by asking questions is also another tool to assist in overcoming an emotional response or no response at all.
It’s perfectly appropriate for us to stand up for a different point of view, but not at the expense of others, or for the purpose of humiliating them. Anytime we feel targeted, treated unfairly, retaliated against, unsafe, or threatened in some way, then it should be addressed. There are times a situation necessitates being reported to those in our organizations who can help address it. Human Resources, the Safety Officer, and of course the Compliance Officer, are some of the professionals hired to help make our organization a desirable, ethical, and safe place to work. But when we choose to discuss situations with others, rather than addressing it one on one with the individual or reporting the concern, it becomes gossip. Gossip is often exaggerated, harmful to others, and creates a poor work culture. When we gossip, we become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Gossip is usually a one-sided picture and not necessarily the truth, and is often at best a partial truth. Gossip is never a respectful response.
There are times that issues are reported and investigated, but not everyone will be privy to the details or the outcome, and it may take some time to see a change. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust the system established to address the issues and, therefore, cease reporting concerns through the mechanisms established at our organization to help make it a great place to work.
Let’s strive to become self-regulated in our responses, properly address concerns, and communicate in a way that treats others with dignity and shows that we are individuals interested in cultivating a culture of integrity, trust, and respect.
Deann M. Baker, CHC, CCEP, CHRC
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