Does a Colleague Want You to Compromise Your Values?
Your company has decided to send you and a colleague, Jan, to an industry conference in Boston. You work out a schedule so that between the two of you, you can cover the workshops and seminars that would be most relevant to your company.
The night before the last day of the conference, Jan floats the idea that since the weather’s nice, you could both skip the last session and take a sightseeing tour of the harbor. She even has a friend who’s attending the session you’ll miss and can fill you in later.
Jan says the session topic isn’t that great anyway. She doesn’t want to take the tour by herself, so she’s asking you to join her.
A Choice You Don’t Like
You thought the conference session sounded relevant, and anyway, you don’t feel right about skipping. But you work with Jan and want to get along with her.
How Should You Handle This?
A Note About This Situation
Understand that we are not discussing the ethics of skipping a work-related function the company has sent you to attend. We could have used scenarios, for instance, in which a co-worker asks you to fudge some research data for a report or wants you to knock off early on a Friday afternoon because the boss is out of town.
The question here is whatever it is that you don’t feel right about, how should you use Q4 behavior to approach your colleague so that 1) you don’t turn Q2 (passive, going along) or Q3 (trying to buddy up) and go against your personal ethics, and 2) you don’t damage your relationship?
You can approach Jan on a moral basis, showing offense that she wants you to skip out. But wagging a finger of disapproval could come off as pompous or trying to shame her. If that’s your intent, fine, but understand that you might be burning a bridge in terms of working together well. There’s a more constructive alternative, B.
We’re describing a First-Person Statement. Without pointing a finger of criticism, you put the spotlight on yourself, asking for Jan’s help to resolve this dilemma. “Jan, I’ve been thinking, and I need your help on this. On the one hand, I don’t want to disappoint you. I like our relationship at work. But I just wouldn’t feel right skipping this session. Can you help me work this out?” More than likely, she will not continue trying to get you to go along, and she shouldn’t feel that you are looking down at her.
NOTE: If she still wants to skip out on her own and you are concerned for her, you could try a consequence statement. “Jan, I think there are definite risks to doing this. Have you really thought it through?” She may scoff at that, but at least you tried.
This is just rationalizing behavior you don’t actually want to take part in. If your strongest impulse is that you shouldn’t go along, it doesn’t matter how much you minimize its impact. Later, you could well be disappointed in yourself for turning Q2 or Q3. Plus, there’s a chance you will resent Jan for having put you in this position.