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Crucial Applications: Dealing with Harassment

If you’re experiencing racial slurs, enduring sexual harassment, or are a daily witness to other degrading behaviors at work, don’t settle, sue, or quit. Fix the silly but commonly held belief that your only choice is between taking it and quitting. Joseph Grenny offers three helpful steps for dealing with the problem. He suggests adopting a “three strikes and you’re out” approach:

1. Strike One: On the first offense, speak up immediately and ask the other person to commit to stop. Don’t be subtle-–be direct. Make it private and make it polite.

2. Strike Two: Don’t confront the same problem twice. The first time you confront it, you’re asking for a commitment to stop. If after making the commitment, the person continues, you now have to confront the new problem-–the person’s failure to keep the commitment. This is a bigger problem than the repeated behavior. Privately, politely, and immediately point out the failure. Ask why it happened, and attempt to get a commitment to change. Let the person know that if he or she breaks this commitment you will lose confidence that talking is sufficient. Tell the person that you plan to explore other options for correcting this situation.

3. Strike Three: Know your options. If the bad behavior happens again, it’s time to escalate. You’ve tried to talk things out without success. Report the behavior to HR, or use other channels to prosecute your rights. Be clear on HR, legal, and other policies you have working in your favor in case the behavior happens again.