Monday, December 7, 2009

A New Rule for the Workplace

A New Rule for the Workplace
Originally published in
Thursday September 10, 2009

By Peter Bregman (reprinted with author permission)

A few months ago my wife Eleanor came home upset after an incident with one of the parents at our daughter's school. That afternoon, when Eleanor said hello to Michelle, Michelle completely ignored her. Thinking maybe Michelle hadn't heard her, Eleanor said hello again, this time louder. Again, no response. Michelle wasn't speaking on the phone or in a conversation with another parent. She was able to respond, she just refused to. Eleanor was getting the silent treatment. Not one to give up, she said hello a third time. Finally, Michelle mumbled something without looking up and walked away.

Eleanor wasn't friends with Michelle. They had only spoken a few times in the past, most notably when she called Eleanor to complain about something our daughter did. Still, she was thrown off balance by Michelle's cold shoulder. It was one of those small things that's hard to get out of your mind. She wasn't expecting it.


Peter Bregman writes a weekly column called How We Work at Harvard Business and is a regular contributor at CNN. He speaks, writes, and consults about how to lead and how to live. He is the CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., a global management consulting firm, and advises CEOs and their leadership teams. You can sign up to be notified when he writes a new article. Bregman is the author of Point B: A Short Guide To Leading a Big Change and can be reached at

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