Are your colleagues and other employees disengaged? Are some workers feeling disconnected to the team? My client research indicates that one of the biggest factors causing less than top team performance and innovation among co-workers is their inability to give feedback to each other quickly and without judgment regarding culturally sensitive behaviors—also known as micro-inequities. When you don’t know what to say, you often say nothing but the problem only deepens each time the “offender” says or does something that is unbearable.

Now let’s be clear, of course there are folks who look for ways to be offended, and there are some who take political correctness too far. I am not referring to either type individual regarding the technique I am about to suggest, since many of these folks are not open to change anyway.

Imagine for following scenarios:

  • A co-worker or boss constantly calls you Chuck but you prefer Charles.
  • Others give you a nickname because they don’t seem to want to make the effort to say your birth name correctly.
  • As a female when you share an idea during a meeting, a male team leader often interrupts or discounts your contribution. Then later a male team member offers the same suggestion and it is heard.

My colleague and expert on change management, Chris Clarke-Epstein says, “Successful change requires a feeling of passion to get you through the tough parts.” To approach a colleague with a request to change a behavior they probably do not think is a problem takes passion and skill. After all, you still have to work with this person after the encounter, so most people decide not to do anything instead of risking a mistake and making the relationship worse. There is hope however. The following four step technique I call S.T.O.P.can help you through those sensitive discussions and allow you to develop a good and sometimes even stronger relationship with the “offender” on the other side of the encounter.

State the specific behavior that caused a conflict or offense. Be sure it is a behavior (something said or done) not an attitude or belief.

Tell him/her how you feel. (Own your feelings. Don’t blame the offender for making you feel a certain way.)

Options, options, options. Offer options and suggestions to replace the unacceptable behavior. Educate the offender without showing additional disrespect.

Positive results – What is in it for the offender if behavior changes? How will the relationship become more positive?


There are three keys to success when using this technique.

1. Remember this is not intended to be a long discussion. State the action clearly, objectively and calmly. Then work the remaining steps.

2. Do not defend your feelings, and do not blame the other person for “making you feel” a certain way. They just acted. Your interpretation of the action made you feel offended or angry or hurt, or whatever the feeling was.

3. Own the situation. After you complete these steps say, “Are you willing to help me with this?” If they say no, there is a much bigger issue with your relationship than just the offensive behavior. When they say yes, be sure to acknowledge the changed behavior at the first opportunity you have. This will help them know how important it is to you.

This technique will not work to change the beliefs and attitudes of others, so do not bother testing it to change religious beliefs, political views or other deep convictions.

Try it. Let me know how it works is for you by commenting on this blog.

By the way, did the yellow STOP symbol at the top of this article strike you as odd? STOP signs in the USA have been yellow for over thirty years. People don’t change unconsciously. Real behavior change takes awareness, passion and skill.

(More details and examples of this technique are included in The Diversity Advantage: A Guide to Making Diversity Work, 3rd Ed.)