By John Worne

Diverse international organisations are culturally complex – but like wider society there’s also just loads of sexism, ageism, racism and at best unconscious – but sometimes overt – bias in any workplace. Any Specialist-Generalist needs to play their part in actively tackling this. 

Here’s some good advice on how, from the Harvard Business Review: 

What to Say When Someone Makes an Offensive Comment

When a colleague makes an inappropriate comment, it can be risky to speak up — and risky not to. Not addressing a sexist or racist comment may give the person permission to do it again. 

If you decide to say something, be careful not to level accusations. Research shows that harsh statements such as “That’s racist” can backfire, making the person less likely to change their behavior. Instead, you might say, “I know it wasn’t your intent, but that made me uncomfortable” or “I’m confused by what you said.” 

Don’t think of it as sidestepping the issue; it’s actually a more effective approach. You might also ask a question like “What did you mean by that comment?” or “What information are you basing that on?” 

Alternatively, you could request that they repeat the comment. This will prompt them to think through what they meant by the remark, as well as its effect on others, and give them a chance to take it back.

Adapted from “How to Respond to an Offensive Comment at Work,” by Amy Gallo

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