“Ask a Priest: How Do I Tell Someone That She Isn’t Fair?”

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Q: How do I tell a person to whom I owe gratitude that it’s wrong for her to treat her workers unfairly? – M.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If you are very sure that she is indeed treating workers unfairly, you might want to share your observation with her charitably and discreetly.

If you owe her a debt of gratitude, that is all the more reason to see fraternal correction as a form of charity that can help repay some of that debt. For it’s not easy to correct a person who has helped us.

Before approaching her about the workers, it would be good to pray first. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance to say the right thing in the right way.

Also helpful would be to an act of charity before you speak with her. That is, look for a moment when you have just done her a favor and she thanks you. You could pause and say, “Sally, would you have a moment? There’s been something on my heart …”

When you bring up your observations, try to limit your comments, and back them up with examples. Avoid coming across as judgmental.

Instead of saying, “Sally, you treat your workers badly,” you might say, “You know, Sally, I noticed last week that you had a tough deadline to meet. I noticed that you loudly corrected Donna in front of the whole staff, and that she was quite upset the rest of the day. For myself, I always appreciate it when a boss points out something to me discreetly …”

Then, let Sally give her side of the story if she wants. Just listen to her patiently, without getting into an argument. Sometimes it’s better just to raise a point and then give the other person time to absorb it.

Try to add a positive comment at the end. “I know you do a lot for the company, Sally, and I know it helps the staff when you give them encouragement. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this concern I had.”

It would help to keep praying for Sally, too. Bosses often have a lot more on their shoulders than we imagine.

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