Picture this- You're in the break room and a person from another department walks in upset because he just left a counseling session with his manager. His manager has told him that his inappropriate jokes have to stop. He is completely flabbergasted because he thinks his jokes are hilarious. What do you do?

Most people side with the employee. You agree that management is overly sensitive. Did he really need to get pulled into HR for that? Doesn't his manager have a sense of humor?

I'll tell you what the manager does have that is greater than a sense of humor. It is a responsibility to protect employees, customers and the business. Behavior that a reasonable manager considers counter-productive can lead to potential complaints or worse, law suits. Why risk it? This is your opportunity, as a peer, to be the voice of reason. Help your team member step away from his feelings and think rationally. Are "jokes" really worth the lost productivity spent in corrective action planning? Is it worth his job?

That example is pretty cut and dry but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes employees feel picked on and want other team members to empathize with them.

Why does he keep "harassing" me about being at work on time?
Because you're late, a lot.

Why is she so upset that the project was turned in late? I turned it in.
Because it was late and it should not have been.

Who cares that my shirt is wrinkled?
Your boss does.

While the vexed employee may feel that the issues being addressed are "not serious", they very likely are. Managers (in most cases) have responsibilities that relate to the business function or even the improvement of the business functions. The absolute last conversation a manager wants to take the time to have is correcting another professional. If nonproductive behavior is being addressed by a manager or HR - the matter should be taken seriously. 

From a peer to peer perspective, it is easy to side with peers because you want to work in a copacetic environment. It’s "us" against "him", the manager. But is it really? Who benefits from working in an environment where an employee can't see the error in his ways? Not the customers and definitely not the employees.

Do not take the easy road! Do not allow your emotions to cloud your own or your colleague's judgment. It doesn't feel good to be told you are wrong but from the correct perspective your colleague may see an opportunity for growth.

You may not realize it but you've grown too. You coached a peer and became more business minded. This isn't an easy road to take but its worth it.


The views expressed in this post are those of Vanessa Jackson, created specifically to help you find happiness in your career and life.