The Big Comeback

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by: The Memo Staff

Have you ever needed to have a difficult conversation at work? You know the one where your coworker might have touched your hair without permission, and --being that it's 2019-- you were left standing in shock not knowing how to address it? Or a colleague or manager has said something disparaging about you or your work that you know isn't accurate? Lastly, maybe you remember a time where you had an idea in a meeting and one of your colleagues continued to talk over you. You left that meeting thinking to yourself, "I should have said something."

Navigating difficult conversations at work is not easy, but is necessary. It must be done with finesse to avoid someone calling us "angry," "excited," or "emotional," but we must be our best advocates in addressing disrespectful interactions, or how else will our colleagues learn what is appropriate and acceptable?

Here are a few tips to help you with your comeback when some of your colleagues might have lost their mind -- it's up to us to help them find it.

1) Prepare. I once heard a black woman say--she always has a "comeback" ready. I asked her to explain what that meant. And she frankly said, "There will always be someone at work that says something out of pocket to you, especially if you are the only one or one of few in the workplace. So I always have a comeback ready." She admitted that it took years for her to build up her courage to address bias and microaggressions in the workplace, but at some point, she said, she couldn't let them slide anymore. So she prepared statements ahead of time to help her address these occurrences and she felt so much better doing it. It helped her not have to replay woulda, coulda, shoulda moments after the fact. Try practicing your comebacks with tact like Issa Rae in the mirror on episodes of Insecure.

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2) Learn to be Direct. This is a good opportunity for you to pull "Bob" over after a meeting. For example, "Hey Bob, can I talk to you real quick? I noticed in our meeting that you continued to talk over me when I had something to say. I realize you probably weren't doing it on purpose, but I wanted to make you aware of it for next time. Thanks for understanding." You have ideas and a perspective that needs to be heard and your voice will never be heard if you allow others to silence it. Yes, this isn't an easy conversation to have with "Bob," but part of securing our seat at the table is learning how to navigate hard conversations at work. P.S. It's not always what you say, but it's how you say it, so this conversation can be delivered better than Bruno Mars and his finesse.

3) Have The Receipts. Starting out in the workplace, I'd often hear the advice from mentors, "Document everything." This is so helpful, especially when a boss or colleague has said something about your work that you know to be untrue. Perhaps they said you didn't deliver something in the way you were asked to. Go back through your notes! Then when you have that difficult conversation, you will be armed with facts -- dates, emails, work submitted -- that you will contribute context to situations where otherwise it would be your word against theirs.

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4) Know Your Value. Oftentimes, we don't want to make waves. We want to keep our heads down, do our work, and avoid confrontation altogether. Of course, every little thing isn't worth bringing up, but others are. Think -- "If this happened to my best friend, would I be ready to fight for her? Would I encourage her to speak up for herself in this instance?" Know that you deserve to be respected at work. Treat yourself like you would your best friend, and be your own best advocate!