It’s the last day of the month of A (ornellember format), so I’d like to start a little series. I consider myself to be a schemer— I don’t manipulate people, but I usually have a plan, or three, to deal with stuff ranging from socially tricky situations to getting a promotion.
I think it’d be fun if, for every month of this 13-month year, I shared one strategy I’ve used. So here’s the first! I call this one “No Solutions.”
When you’re raising the alarm about an injustice, you don’t propose or accept solutions, especially unofficial ones.
There was a guy who was a jackass to me at work. I initially tried my regular approaches, like trying to understand his motives, trying to collaborate, asking for advice from people close to him, but one incident pushed me over the line. I told my managers that whatever his motives or his character, I considered his behavior unacceptable.
My managers didn’t know how to deal with it. They called a meeting to discuss the situation with me. I had talked with a friend before, and while discussing it with my friend, I prepared my strategy — no solutions. I was nervous, but eager to try it out.
The conversation went basically like this:
Managers: “What do you think we should do?”
Me: ”I don’t know, I’m not a manager, but I know I can’t work like this.”
Them: “Right. What would make you comfortable?”
Me: “To not work in an environment that tolerates this behavior.”
Them: “How about pulling you off the project temporarily?”
Me: “I don’t think that’s fair, given that from all the feedback I’ve gotten, I’ve done great work on this project.”
Them: “OK, but we’re looking for solutions, at least short-term.”
Me: “Sorry, I can’t help you there, but I’m sure the company has resources to help managers with these kinds of situations”
After this, their manager got involved, and the situation got escalated to HR. Turns out similar situations had happened to 4+ people, but they got squashed: victims had accepted an apology, or a “solution” outside the official process (a process which had never been shared with them).
Unfortunately, even though all these people came forward in the HR investigation I triggered, and the guy was found to have a pattern of racist and sexist inappropriate behavior, this was the first officially recorded complaint, so there wasn’t enough proof that he’d had a chance to change. The guy got a stern warning.
By refusing “solutions”, even temporary ones, I was hoping to let the situation escalate as high as it was really meant to. If I reached a plateau, in terms of how seriously things were taken, I would then see if I was open to negotiation, or if I planned to move to a different company.
Like all strategies, this was not the only contributing factor; I’m confident that many more people contributed to this overall positive outcome. However, I do think “no solutions” was decisive to get an official HR investigation process going.
Thanks for reading this strategy! I’m sure I’m not the first person to use it, so if you have other examples of it, or if you have any thoughts, please lmk on Twitter!