The Filter Faux Pas

September 06, 2019
MRA Edge
Read time: 3 mins

Have you ever disagreed with a co-worker in a meeting and imagined saying something you shouldn’t? Of course you have, we’ve all done it. But we have a filter …

A filter in the workplace makes for a civil and respectful environment. However, there are people who lack a proper filter and tend to say things without thinking them through. While that may be entertaining at times, these filter-less folks can get into trouble if not managed.

What kind of communication does a filter help eliminate?
  • Gossip. Talking about something that is not validated, info picked up in the halls or gleaned from a conversation you overheard is no good.
  • Random, impulsive, or rude comments and thoughts. Open mouth, insert foot, as they say. If you wouldn’t say it to your mom, you probably shouldn’t say it at work.
  • Culturally insensitive chatter. Giving a negative opinion on someone’s ethnic clothes or commenting on the smell of someone’s food should be off limits.
  • Personal beliefs inappropriate for work. Think religion, politics, sexual preferences.

Why everyone needs a filter is probably the most important piece to consider for those who lack one.

  • Perception. Without a filter, people never know what’s going to come out of your mouth, and your peers learn that quickly. While you may be a hoot to be around, you’re not going to be the one someone takes seriously.
  • Keeping confidences. No one will trust you with information that isn’t meant for the masses if they know you don’t have a filter.
  • Respect. Ultimately, it’s tough to respect someone who can’t be taken seriously or completely trusted.
  • Risk. Off-the-cuff comments related to a protected class can put you and the company at risk for creating a hostile work environment.
So, the million-dollar question is how does someone without a filter develop one?

Just because a person is filter-free doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. Here are some tactics to consider for those who tend to blurt out their thoughts.

  • Ponder your backfires. You didn’t set out to make that waitress flustered, but you did. When you get feedback that you’ve come across strong it’s time to self-reflect. Reliving what you said when something didn’t go over well is an effective exercise to work on while developing a filter.
  • Be self-aware. Pay attention in meetings when you’re talking with people. Was there a time when the conversation took a nosedive or people stopped engaging? What made that happen? Also, be aware of other people’s body language—they don’t have to say anything for you to know they’re uncomfortable. A lack of eye contact, nervous laughter, and bolting out of the room as soon as the meeting is done are all signs that someone is uneasy.
  • Hire some help. Training on civility, active listening, mindfulness, and giving and receiving feedback can be very helpful. It takes self-discipline to change but it certainly can be done.

Check out MRA’s communication support on our website. From videos to articles to onsite classes like Civility in the Workplace, members can find useful information when it comes to communicating at work. And, don’t forget, there’s always the option to call our HR Advisors at 866-HR-HOTLINE (866.474.6854) or email with your questions, 24/7.

MRA Edge September/October 2019

Read the full issue.