Don’t Keep Your Frustrations “In the Vault”

Justin HaleIAAP Summit 2016 Speaker
Session during IAAP Summit 2016 is:

  • Crucial Conversations
    7.25.2016 | 10:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. & 1:45 – 4:00 p.m.

We recently did a study finding that 56% of us safeguard toxic secrets or grievances in the workplace for more than a year—because we focus on the immediate risks involved in speaking up while ignoring the certain and ongoing costs of not speaking up.


In our study 1,400 people were asked to imagine they were given a “magical free pass” that would allow them to say anything they wanted to one person at work—with immunity from any consequences. People’s suppressed concerns ran the gamut from terrifying to disgusting to heartbreaking. The study revealed that keeping these secrets “in the vault” creates problems that can be costly to an organization. In reality secrets are not truly locked away, if you don’t talk it out with the person and resolve it, you’ll act it out in unhealthy ways. And the costs in the long terms can be huge—in a separate study we did, we found that for every major crucial conversation you avoid it can cost your organization up to $1,500 and an 8-hour work day.

Here are a few tips to help address these “vaults:”

  • Assume people can change: People change all the time. Do the person the favor of letting them try to change.
  • Determine what you really want: Not just for yourself, but also for the other person and for your working relationship. This long-term, inclusive goal can make the conversation constructive, rather than destructive.
  • Approach as a Friend, not a Foe: Explain your positive motives up front. For example, “I’d like to discuss a concern. My goal is to support you and to help us achieve the metrics you’ve set for our team…”
  • Stick to the facts: Avoid broad conclusions such as, “you don’t care” or “you’re incompetent.” Instead, focus on specific incidents, events, and actions such as, “The last three staffing decisions were made without input from the managers in the affected areas.”

Justin Hale has presented to audiences across a variety of industries and organizations, helping them learn and apply practical skills. Justin is one of the key subject matter experts on the VitalSmarts development team and is the VitalSmarts virtual training guru. He has led the effort in virtual development and instruction, and seventy percent of attendees rate his virtual courses as equally engaging as or more engaging than face-to-face training they’ve attended. 

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