The Words We Read. The Way We Think. The Risks We Have

By Adam Turteltaub

Burned.  Owned.  Slammed.

These three words are found in headlines all over the internet:  Watch this person slam that one.  So and so just owned such and such.  See this guy totally burn that guy.

We live in times where making a point isn’t good enough.  Degrading and humiliating the other person is what many people crave.

While the compliance community can’t change the popular culture, we can make it clear that what has become acceptable political discourse or common click bait on the Internet is not acceptable in the workplace.

It’s both a principled and a practical stance that compliance professionals, and smart business people, need to take. A culture of humiliation doesn’t make for a business environment most people want to work in.  And, it’s risky from a business perspective.  In his book Civility Rules, Steven Paskoff writes, “The path from merely disruptive to outright abusive behaviors is a well-known route to illegal actions.”

So, what can we do?  We can remind people that the way we work together isn’t decided by politics or popular headlines.  It starts and ends with the company’s code of conduct.  The values that we share are enumerated there, and “owning” or “slamming” or “burning” are not amongst them.

Instead, the company is committed to embracing loftier values such as integrity, excellence, diversity, and inclusiveness.  Whatever your organization’s values are, they should determine how people treat each other.

Second, behavior that is not in line with the company’s values should be reported.  The helpline isn’t there just for legal violations, but for code of conduct violations as well.

Third, we all need to be reminded that our words, actions, and even eye movements count.  Words aren’t the only way to say to an employee, “Shut up, I don’t care what you have to say.”  Rolling your eyes can have the same effect.

Finally, we can remind them that when they walk through the doors in the morning, they are expected to act like professionals, not professional wrestlers.

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  1. Good Morning Adam – I enjoyed this read. It is very important to be mindful of our word choices and actions.

    Very respectfully,


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