Avoiding Bruised Egos at Work Avoiding Bruised Egos at Work

Imagine you find out that the majority of your team went out for drinks after work and didn’t invite you. Or you have to tell a colleague that you prefer to be called Michael, not Mike, for the fourth time. It might be simply annoying if things like this happened occasionally, but a pattern of such experiences could leave you feeling like an outsider at your own office.

Subtle slights at work–or “microinequities,” as they are sometimes called–can have a major impact on productivity, morale, and workplace relationships. And these types of minor injustices are often unintentional, so it’s important to be aware of your actions.

Following are some of the most common microinequities, along with tips for interacting with colleagues in a more positive way:

Excluding others: You organize an informal lunch with several team members. Assuming a certain colleague won’t be interested in the topic you’re discussing, you don’t bother asking her to join you.

Wrong move.

When in doubt, extend the invitation. Your coworker may not want to come to the lunch, but you should let her decide. Not giving her the option can make her feel disconnected from the group or leave the impression that her opinions aren’t valued.

Overlooking the owner of an idea: Have you ever come up with a great idea, only to have your manager or colleague present it to others as a group concept? It can make you feel unappreciated, and you might even be less likely to offer up ideas in the future. Strive to always recognize others’ contributions.

Interrupting a colleague: You may assume you know what a coworker is going to say and pipe in before he or she finishes a sentence. But resist the temptation. Also keep in mind that people process information in different ways, and it may take some longer than others to arrive at “the point.”

Give colleagues time to finish their thoughts instead of interjecting your own ideas or talking over them. If you don’t, you may miss out on a great idea.

Not paying attention: When talking to a colleague, it’s deflating to lose the battle for his or her attention to a suddenly ringing cell phone. If you’re interacting with someone, wait to respond to any texts, email messages, or phone calls until you’ve concluded the conversation.

Patronizing coworkers: Imagine you put hours of effort into learning all the intricacies of your firm’s new accounting software. When you tell your colleague about your success, he says, “Great. I’m glad to hear you finally figured it out.” Talk about demoralizing.

Be careful your word choice or tone of voice doesn’t make it seem as though you think that you’re smarter than someone else or that a colleague’s accomplishment is no big deal.

Being dismissive: You’re in a meeting, and a colleague is giving his weekly update in minute detail. You turn to your coworker and whisper, “Please put me out of my misery!” He rolls his eyes in sympathy.

Although you may be looking for a laugh, both actions demonstrate a lack of respect. Even if the person speaking doesn’t pick up on your behavior, others might.

Mispronouncing a colleague’s name: Your coworker may have an unusual name, but not learning to say it correctly is disrespectful. When you meet someone with a name that you have not heard before, ask him or her for the correct pronunciation, say it out loud, and write out the name phonetically so you can refer to it if you forget.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of a workplace slight–and most of us have–you know how it can make you feel. By keeping in mind what types of actions are hurtful to you and striving to avoid microinequities when interacting with others, you’ll create positive, productive relationships with colleagues.

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