Don’t Get Trampled by the Elephant in the Room

Don’t Get Trampled by the Elephant in the Room

It seems there’s a big elephant in nearly every room these days. We live in strange times, when even close family members are divided over certain issues. When good friends might not want to bring up certain subjects.

While this can be painful in our personal lives, it can be downright dangerous in the workplace. You never know when a seemingly innocuous comment will ignite a co-worker’s—or superior’s, or client’s—unconscious bias, and lead us to places no one wants to go.

Naturally, it’s best to avoid bringing up these subjects in the workplace. But what if someone else brings it up? Or worse, what if you’re asked a direct question by someone you can’t just easily dismiss?

Those are tricky situations. However, there are strategies you can use to gracefully, even elegantly, defuse a situation that could easily get out of hand. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Change the subject without looking like you’re changing the subject. This is one of my favorites. Of course you’d just like to say, “How about them [insert local football team here],” but that’s not always practical. Instead, use a kernel of the imminent conversation to bring the subject around to something that’s more comfortable for everyone. Something like:

Potential conversation destroyer:Anyone who voted for that loser is basically a traitor. Did you vote for [him/her]?”

You: “You know, speaking of treason, I went to see Hamilton the other night, and besides being a FANTASTIC musical, I learned a lot about the birth of the country and our founding fathers. Anyone else see it?”

If you’re in a group, hopefully you’ll gain an ally with this who will come to the rescue (even if they haven’t seen the show), and now you’ll be talking about something completely different.

2. Be politely direct. “You know, I’ve always had a personal rule to never discuss politics or religion at work. Is that all right with you?”

This might not always work, but you’re making it clear where you stand and drawing a boundary that the other person must now consciously choose to cross.

3. Invent a distraction. In this case, your smartphone might be your best friend. If your phone is in your pocket, make believe its vibrating, pull it out, and say, “Excuse me, I need to take this, my [brother/aunt/dog] is in the hospital and we’re waiting for word.” Then leave the room to have your make-believe conversation.

Yes, it might not be the most elegant solution, but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. When you return, make sure you have a topic of conversation ready that you can immediately launch into, so as to avoid the previous topic.

These are good places to start, but I’m sure you can think of even better ways to defuse a potentially explosive situation. In fact, this might be a good exercise for a team-building situation: “How would you avoid a direct question about religion or politics?” Sounds like a good brainstorm subject to me!

Stephen Trimble

Written by Stephen Trimble

Stephen is an experienced communications professional with a background in educational and internal communications. He is most excited by transforming complex and obscure subject matter into compelling content that readers are motivated by and can truly understand.

Trion Communications stephen.trimble@trion-mma.com

Thank You and Happy Holidays!

Thank You and Happy Holidays!

Gratitude: That’s what I’m feeling right now. We come to the office every single day in the hopes of working with great people, doing meaningful work, and making a difference. And I’m delighted to say, in 2016, we did it! Thanks, in great part, to all of you.

Which is why, as we bring this year’s Open Enrollment and holiday season to its festive close, I want to give a big THANK YOU to those who’ve touched our practice, helping us do what we do. Thank you for entrusting us with your business, your time, your challenges, your opinions, your faith, your support, your ideas, and your collaborative genius. Thanks for sharing with us all the things that make you uniquely YOU. We look forward to doing it all over again next year!

Until then, have a very happy holiday season. Enjoy. Sleep in. Eat a lot. Give presents. Read a book. Hug your friends, shop the sales, and get your fill of holiday movies. Do your thing. And we’ll see you in 2017!!!

Jill Sherer Murray

Written by Jill Sherer Murray

As practice leader, Jill has built an award-winning communications practice inside a global consulting firm, and continues to grow the business and the team. She oversees the strategic vision and day-to-day activities in developing employee benefits education and engagement strategies.

Trion Communications jill.murray@trion-mma.com

‘Tis the Season

‘Tis the Season

In the blink of an eye, we find ourselves gearing up for another holiday season, welcoming a fresh start and a new year. Where does the time go? As 2016 comes to a close, we begin to think ahead to 2017 and what the new year may hold: career goals, travel adventures, home and family changes…

It’s difficult to ignore this season’s abundance of ad campaigns and news headlines centered around the topic of new year’s resolutions, which consequently leaves you feeling pressured to create that master list of ways you are going to better yourself (and your family, and your friends….and the whole world for that matter!) Assessing how you will actually check these things off your list is enough to make your head spin.

So, here’s a resolution to solve your conflict with resolutions (see what I did there?): be realistic. There are many benefits associated with the process of self-assessment and establishing goals to better one’s self, but do yourself a favor and be realistic. Use your new year’s resolutions as motivators – don’t let them become discouragers by asking yourself to tackle the issue of global warming in one weekend.

Here are a couple tips to help you generate a (realistic) resolution list for 2017.

Start small: Quality, not quantity. You don’t need a five-page list of goals and resolutions to set yourself up for a productive year. Keep it simple and begin by identifying a small task you’d like to complete that may contribute to a larger goal. You can piggyback off the first step throughout the year and before you know it, you’ll be on to bigger and better!

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it’s worth saying again here. It’s a risk to invest all of your time, money or emotions into one thing, and while this can sometimes be rewarding, it also creates potential for a big letdown. As you consider your goals and resolutions for 2017, try to spread the wealth by focusing a bit of attention on your personal life, another bit on your professional goals, and some on your health, environment and/or family life. And, of course, if you’re looking toward strengthening your communication strategy or improving your employees’ knowledge of benefits, check out the many ways our team at Trion can help!

Acknowledge your successes: Finally, as you’re gearing up for another year of health, happiness and productivity, be sure to take some time to reward yourself for all you’ve done this year. ‘Tis the season for holiday treats, so indulge in that cookie platter and carve out a little time for some well deserved R&R!

Written by Tarin Dooley

Trion Communications tarin.dooley@trion-mma.com