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by Derek Loosvelt | March 15, 2011


If you're afflicted with the above uncomfortable workplace situation, take a page from HR consultant Donna Flagg's new book, Surviving Dreaded Conversations: Talk Through Any Difficult Situation at Work. According to Flagg, if all eyes are on the top portion of your blouse as opposed to your face, you should do the following:

"No matter how uncomfortable [you] may feel about initiating a dialogue, [you'll] be much better off if [you] forge ahead ... Say to [your] colleague, simply, 'I’ve noticed that when you speak to me, you don’t look me in the eye; you look at my chest. That makes me uncomfortable.'"

Flagg notes that "she knew a manager who recently had that very wandering eyes conversation with an employee. 'He was embarrassed, and he said he was sorry,' she says. 'The behavior stopped.'"

Flagg also recommends using this "gentle" phrase for the aforementioned as well as other uncomfortable workplace situations: "I'm not loving that."

Additional advice on the wandering eye subject can be found in the decade-old Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, written by three members of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a Harvard Law School program whose mission is "to improve the theory and practice of conflict resolution and negotiation."

According to Sheila Heen, one of Difficult Conversations' authors, "Don't assume the employee is even conscious that he's staring at [your] body, or that he has bad intentions. [You] should start the conversation by saying, 'I don’t know if you're aware of what you're doing, and maybe I'm wrong, but it feels like you're staring at my chest, and that makes me uncomfortable.'"



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