One of the lessons of my youth came from the history books as well as from some very fine teachers. Do not give silent approval to wrongdoing.

“Silence, in the face of wrongdoing, gives the appearance of approval.” That was some big lesson for a little girl to explain why we must stand up and be counted or the wrongs committed by others will be considered right. For years, I tried to instill that sense of integrity in my students and continue to write about it and make it a point in my presentations.

That lesson was reinforced for me decades later in one of the first classes on the subject at UC Berkeley, Functional Racism in America. Our prof repeated the words: “Do not be silent in the face of wrong-doing.” I would add “or wrong saying”. With years, experience and wisdom, I have learned to pick my battles but I have not allowed the ‘bad guys and gals’ to get my silent approval in any situation. The lesson we’ve learned from Ruth Bader Ginsburg is to make a point both calmly and conversationally.

During a speaking engagement (Pre-Covid decade), some thing occurred that had never happened to me before. One of the attendees at a conference was completely “inappropriate” at the board dinner I attended. It truly threw me for a loop and left a very bad impression. After all, haven’t we had years of classes and cases about our demeanor? Don’t we know what’s not acceptable and could even be actionable??? Grievances have been filed, attorneys hired and people fired for that what constitutes “overstepped boundaries”.

For years, I had included the issue in my presentations. After all, when we “work” rooms, network and converse, we must be mindful of the import and impact of our words and deeds. It’s about building, not burning, bridges.

It all seemed so last century that I dropped any mention of minding our ‘p’s and ‘q’s. Not any more. That last experience showed me the error of my ways. While not a proponent of the Xtreme Political Correctness travesty, I wholly support that murky area of mingling known as “appropriate” —be it in behavior, humor, words and deeds.

What to do about the person whose comments and behavior are unprofessional? I pondered my next step and decided that I HAD to inform the executive director who hired me to share my expertise. Why? Because if I didn’t, the offender might assume that his behavior was just fine, cute and very appropriate. And continue to insult and offend others. My silence would give him approval. I didn’t make a fuss, file a complaint, or make a scene. After I examined my own behavior and found it to be perfectly professional, I informed the executive director of what happened.

Wouldn’t you know it! Another complaint had been received earlier that month by another member of the association. There is strength in numbers and we confirmed each other’s situations. The perp needed a few professional tips on how to behave in business settings and clear warnings from his board president and his peers.

BOTTOM LINE: We need to be on our best behavior in both in-person and virtual business settings. We must refrain being so casual that we lose sight of what’s “appropriate”.

Although I don’t relish sounding like a killjoy, Mr.Too-Many-Drinks made me rethink my presentations to include the DON’T DO THIS list and confirmed my life-long commitment to NEVER give silent approval to bad behavior. I suggest you, also, speak up in the face of bad behavior. It’s the right thing to do.

Meet anyone in your business endeavors whose remarks were questionable? Please let me know.

It may be time to inform associates, colleagues or clients of what to do, say and what not to do and say in a face-to -face and virtual/online world. Better yet let me do it for you in an educational, upbeat and very forthright interactive and virtual presentation.

About Susan RoAne

Susan RoAne leads a double life as a sought-after professional keynote speaker and a bestselling author. Known as The Mingling Maven®, she gives diverse audiences the required tools, techniques and strategies they need to connect and communicate in today’s global business world. The San Francisco Chronicle says she has a “dynamite sense of humor.” To hire Susan to speak for your company, association or college, 1.415.461.3915