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By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
August 10, 2016
Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: My employer is rolling out one of those personality/behavior assessments. How can I decline without seeming unprofessional?

There was no discussion of whether or not the staff wanted to do this, or how required it is or how to opt out — it was simply presented as “staff are going to do this.” I’m strongly opposed to any sort of personality assessment because I find them not useful and a massive violation of privacy, crossing the line between professional and personal. Do I have any standing to ask if I can opt out? If so, how would I go about doing this professionally? Note that if they say it’s required or else I’ll get fired, then I’ll suck it up and do it.

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A: You can try to opt out if you want, and it’s useful for employers to hear that not everyone is happy to be asked to do these. That said, there may be a cost to trying to get out of it — in terms of how much political capital you’ll use that then won’t be there if you want to ask for an exception for something else in the future — so you’ll need to factor that into whether you feel strongly enough about it or not.

If you do decide to try to get out of it, I’d say this: “I’d like to excuse myself from participating in this; there are loads of issues with these assessments’ scientific validity, and they’re more personal than I’m comfortable getting at work. So I want to give you a heads-up that I plan to sit this out.”

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Q: I told a coworker I was “disgusted” with how she handled something

I recently had an encounter at work when I forgot about a payment, was notified a month later, and rectified it immediately. Someone not involved in the rectification told my indirect supervisor that the issue had not been resolved and actually got me in a lot of trouble. I sent an email to this person and used the words “I am disgusted with the way this was handled,” as this all happened on a Friday night and actually had significant implications on the work I needed to do over the weekend.

I was in the wrong and let emotions get to me. All 20 previous emails were definitely kind and rational, but then I snapped and got emotional. On Monday, I was called into my indirect supervisor’s office, where I was given an extremely patronizing lecture on how I am young and don’t know everything, and based on this one line I was told that I am lovely in person but my email dialogue was that of a complainer.

I admit my email was wrong — 100% — and apologized profusely. I am now just dealing with my own pride and how to shake this impression I left with this supervisor. I have never had a critique like this before. I am definitely taking it on and will be super careful with emails going forwards, but do you have any advice on what I can do now?

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A: Yeah, telling a coworker that you’re disgusted with her isn’t great, even if you were in the right to be annoyed. I’m also wondering about the 20 emails — that seems like a lot, although of course I don’t know the context.

I can’t tell if your indirect manager’s reaction was over the top or not (if this was more than a five-minute conversation, it probably was, unless this was part of a larger pattern she was concerned about), but in any case, the best thing to do from here is just to be scrupulous about controlling your emotions and not showing anger at coworkers. If you’re feeling heated about something, take that as a sign that you should walk away from the situation and come back to it later when you’re feeling more calm. And avoid using email at all when something feels emotional to you — there’s just too much opportunity for emails to get out of control in situations like this.

When something like this happens, it’s easy to feel like it has forever altered how people see you — but if you replace this impression with lots of impressions of you being professional and pleasant, people will see it as a one-off, not something defining about you. You can get past it!

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.