Today’s guest post is from Diana Trevley, Spark Compliance Consulting’s West Coast Director:

Last month someone in the anti-corruption sphere posted negative, personal, comments on social media about my business partner, Kristy Grant-Hart.  While this person is certainly welcome to his opinions, and constructive criticism and debate, such as the recent Great ISO Debate with Tom Fox, is an important part of professional and business growth, name-calling and insulting those who hold different views – on social media or elsewhere – is unprofessional and inexcusable.

My initial response when I learned of this attack against Kristy was to see red.  Just who did this guy think he was to be spewing vitriol on social media for no apparent reason?!  I even thought about responding to him.  But then I took a few deep breaths and remembered that it would be counterproductive to respond in kind.

In your professional life – and indeed your personal life – there are always going to be people who disagree with you.  They might have fundamentally different values than you. Their own priorities may be compromised by the approach or method you are suggesting, they might not be informed enough about the issue to see your point of view, or they might feel threatened by you based on your position within the company.  Who knows, they may simply not like the shoes you wear.  These people may criticize you in meetings, in the office – either openly or behind your back – and they may take it to a personal level, impugning your character, your motives, your intelligence – your choice in footwear. 

When you come into conflict with people within your company or your field, it is natural to want to defend yourself.  And indeed you should.  But do so in a strategic and professional way that furthers your objectives rather than undermines them. 

Consider the criticism.  It’s always a good idea to look at the issue from someone else’s perspective.  This gives you the opportunity to ask yourself whether there are any flaws in your own approach to things and, if yes, what changes you might want to make.  Understanding where opposition is coming is also the best preparation for arguing your own position to others.

Have faith in yourself.  Don’t throw away your own opinions just because you are being criticized for them and the criticism is uncomfortable.  If you have determined that there is a right course of action, have faith in yourself to have made a good choice.  Stick to your guns when you have determined it is necessary to fighting at the frontlines for ethics!   

Determine where you have support.  Maybe the head of sales thinks ethics is a load of hooey.  He has sales goals to meet each quarter and by golly he’s going to do whatever he has to do to meet those goals!  When you are facing this type of opposition, it is best to consider who else in your company supports your position or might support your position rather spending significant energy arguing with people entrenched in their positions.

Back up your stance with logic.  Bring in facts, figures, case studies, relevant authority.  Stick to a rational logical approach to bring people around to your way of thinking.

Ignore personal attacks and the people making them.  While you should be open to criticism regarding your ideas and opinions, don’t make the mistake of taking personal attacks personally.  Often when people want to tear down your ideas, they will try to bolster their argument by tearing you down as well.  Or perhaps they just have personal problems that they have yet to deal with in therapy.  The most strategic (and zen) solution is to tune these people out and focus your energy elsewhere.  Remember:  their commentary about you reflects badly on them.

Handling criticism and personal insults with dignity is required for you to be successful in the world of compliance.  Consider whether any criticism is constructive.  Build up faith in your own opinions and judgment.  Respond to criticism with logic and data.  Focus your energy on obtaining buy-in from those who are not so entrenched in their position they will never change their mind.  And for those times that the criticism is personal and you feel like responding in kind, remember the wise words of Bernard Shaw:  “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig.  You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”  I’m pretty sure the same can be said for trolls.