How to Handle Accusations at Work
There are ways to handle accusations that happen at work so that they have the least amount of impact. Moreover, you can even model ways to handle accusations so that the entire office can benefit from your knowledge.
When Accusations are made
When you first hear an accusation, you might not know what to do with this information. Accusations are different than your typical conflict and resolution scenario. If there's a conflict, it means that two or more parties are usually directly "conflicting" with each other. Accusations can happen in private, behind your back, or anonymously. You might not even be aware of the accusation until it is repeated to you from someone else or told to a group over lunch. Sometimes it is easier to handle if someone accuses you directly of doing something wrong because it is upfront and out in the open.
In any case, you have the new information about something that happened, and what do you do?
The problem with accusations at work is that we often think that they are completely true, even before we try to ascertain their validity. So, instead of immediately believing what you are being told, think about:
- Is this true?
- Who is the source?
- Is the source trustworthy?
- What are some reasons a person might be spreading this story?
- Have I talked to the other person?
The goal of asking yourself these questions is to stop yourself from immediately thinking that everything you hear is true. You want to question everything you hear, and if you were ever accused of something, you would want others to do the same for you.
Accusations are much like wildfire. If you let them spread too much, they can get out of control. Moreover, when they do spread, you can begin to lose sight of where they began and how to make them stop.
Even though you might be steaming mad when you hear about an accusation someone else has made about you, that does not mean that you have the right to start calling him or her names. What you do need to do at this point is to think about how to calm down, and think rationally.
- Breathe. When you hear about something that is upsetting (even if it is not about you), stop and breathe for a bit. This will help to clear your head and put you back into control of your body and your emotions.
- Do not jump to conclusions. After first hearing about something, it is tempting to think that you know all. Wait to find out the facts before you believe anything you hear.
- Walk away from the situation. If possible, try to walk away from the situation that you are in. This will help prevent unnecessary confrontation. And it can help show that you are a collected person who does not react unnecessarily.
- Do not talk about it until you have calmed down. It might take you a little time to calm down after being accused of something. If that is the case, be sure to state that you need a few moments to gather yourself, but when you are done, you will talk about it.
The more you can stay collected, the more rationally you will approach whatever happens next.
Dealing with Lies
The real problem with accusations in the workplace is when they are not true. Think about it, a person in your workplace is accused of stealing money, for example. They did not and even if they are proven innocent, it can be impossible for them to lose the stigma of being the person that was accused of stealing.
But how do you deal with lies in the workplace?
Some ways you might want to approach lies in the workplace is to make sure that you are modeling that concept of questioning everything. If someone tells you something, for example, make sure that you question its truth until you know it from the source.
When someone tells a lie about you, make sure to find any evidence to contradict what that person is saying about you. You might want to confront the person telling the lie and see what their response might be. For example, you might ask them why they believe that accusation to be true? When you hear their answer, you may get a sense of why they are telling that lie, and then you might be able to do something with that information.
At the same time, what happens when you confront someone about a lie and they deny it? There is not a lot that you can do, but when you have any evidence of conversations or of other proof that disputes the lie, make sure you have it on hand.
If the lie is something you feel might affect your standing with your job, it might be a good idea to talk to your boss about the situation. Make sure to talk to your boss after already talking to the person who is talking about you.
Together, you and your boss might find a way to make the accusation go away.
Accusations and Who Makes Them
The trick with accusations in the workplace is that they can come from anywhere and from anyone. However, when you look at where the accusations come from, you might have a better understanding of why they are being directed at you.
For example, if you have an accusation from a co-worker who does not like you, they might simply be trying to make you look bad to others. On the other hand, they might want to make others like them more. It sounds slightly childish, and it can be, but it is often the case in workplaces.
Accusations from a boss, especially one that is not true, are more serious. You might want to ask questions about this situation, and see why they are saying the things that they are saying. If these accusations are not true, then it is best to continue to document everything that you and your boss say to each other, in addition to everything you do while you are at work, and then talk to your boss' boss about how to handle things.
Think about the person making the accusation and think about how you might be able to talk to others who are not a part of the situation. You need to go to outside sources and connections to handle a situation where you are being falsely accused.
Of course, if you are accused of something that is true, it is wise to admit this to be the case and start working together to see how you can resolve and repair the situation.
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