Courtroom TV in the Workplace

If we went to court to press the charges that many of us silently trump up every day against co-workers, we would be reprimanded for bringing nuisance suits. Or fined for contempt–contempt of the truth.

Imagine telling Judge Judy, “My work environment is hostile, and it’s the fault of my colleague Fred.” (Or my boss’s fault, or my staff’s fault–some of us are equal opportunity accusers!) Judge Judy would ask, “What is your evidence?” To which you reply, “Fred’s always giving me looks.”

“Looks? What sort of looks?”

“You know, Judge. He looks at me like he’s mad at me, like he thinks I’m an idiot.”

“Well, have you asked him if that’s true?”

“Oh, no. I can’t do that.”


“What if he says, ‘You do tick me off and I do think you’re stupid.’?”

“Well, you already believe that, so what would it matter if he confirms it? On the other hand, what if he explains that he’s not mad? Maybe he just has gas.”

“Come on, Judge. You’ve gotten those looks. We know what they mean. You’re giving me one now!”

At which point, look or not, Judge Judy would toss out your charges against Fred for lack of real supporting evidence.

Here is my Court of Law Rule: if you cannot prove it in a court of law, you made it up!

Can you prove someone has a bad attitude? No. You can show they arrive late for work everyday and don’t finish assignments on time. But that’s not evidence of a bad attitude.

There are only two ways to prove someone has a bad attitude: (1) they admit it; or (2) you have put into writing some objective criteria for a good attitude, explained them to that person, and he or she has failed to meet them.

We make up ridiculous stories all day long:

That person is rude.
She doesn’t care.
He’s depressed.
My boss doesn’t appreciate me.
That customer is spoiling for a fight.

Any statement about someone containing the words “is” or “are” is problematic. No one is rude all the time, although people do rude things. People always have something on their minds, but while someone may look depressed; that doesn’t mean they are. Maybe they’re concentrating. You get the picture.

If you want to know what’s going on in someone’s head, ASK!!! At worst, your suspicions will be confirmed. So what? You are already convinced of them; at least now your fears will be on the table and you can deal productively with them.

What if you told someone, “You seem to have a problem with me. Is that true, or is it my imagination?”

They might answer, “No, it’s not you. I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Are you sure? Because if there’s a problem, I’d like to talk about it and see if we can resolve it.”

“No, truly, I just have things on my mind.”

Too many of us miss the opportunity to put our fears to rest. Instead, we walk away thinking, “Oh, sure. He says there’s nothing wrong, but I can tell….”

Once you ask and they answer, LET IT GO! You’ve swept your side of the street and it’s clean. It’s their job to sweep their own. Just think of Judge Judy and ask yourself, “What’s my evidence?” If it’s flimsy at best, throw the charges out yourself. You’ll find life is much easier as a result.

I rest my case!

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