When You Fail to
Stand Up for Someone

Failed to Stand Up for Him

Situations where you fail to stand up for someone you work with are considered a transgression.  Admission and apology are in order, but also reflection, self-forgiveness, and a commitment to do better.

Admitting Your Failure

It’s not always easy to do the right thing, especially when you are not a part of the majority.   But when you fail to stand up for someone who you know is right, and they know you know they are right, you have made a mistake.  You appear complicit, and in agreement with those on the other side of the situation.

What is the current right thing to do?

  • Ask the offended person if you might have a word with them.
  • Accept the conditions which they give.
    “Yes, I’ll meet you for coffee, but John will be with me, too.”
    “I’ll speak with you on the phone, but don’t think forgiveness is at hand.”

When you speak with the offended person:

  • Clearly state the facts of what your offense was in unsentimental terms.
    “Chris, I did not defend you at the board meeting. It was wrong of me.”
    “I apologize for not supporting your idea for the new product line, Annie.” 
  • Step-aside from telling the person how badly you feel.
  • Tell the person that you are going to admit to others what you did.
  • Ask if there is anything that you could do to remedy your wrong-doing.  Be ready to fulfill the other person’s request.  They might say, “It’s too late.  You’ve damaged our relationship.”  The only thing to say then is, “I am sorry.”

The Consequences When You Fail to Stand Up for Someone

There may be many and valid reasons for not supporting someone.  However, when you have previously expressed agreement with them or told them you support their argument, idea, or point of view, you then have an obligation to carry through.

Not doing so can earn you the label of hypocrite, two-faced, or phony, among others.  But you’re also an avoider.  You’re avoiding putting yourself in the position of having to defend yourself or your ideas and the potential consequences that come with this.  Management may see you as someone who goes against the grain, the person you are standing with may not be well-liked even though their idea is a good one, your support may create more work for you when you are assigned the project, or the issue may be a contentious one that executives refuse to deal with and you find yourself out of a job.

The thing about avoidance is you can only do it for so long.  And when you fail to stand up for someone, your inaction is actually an action that speaks to your character.

Miss Manners has it right when she states, “As if etiquette isn’t unpopular enough…I have to occasionally argue against compassion and forgiveness…. When people treat transgressors as members of society in good standing, they destroy the usefulness of reputation as a guide to character.” 

So, if you have transgressed, you might put aside any expectation that your relationship with the person you wronged will continue.

You now have some internal work to do.  Your admission and apology are a first step in self-forgiveness.  And also, a step in creating the image of the person we want to be.  There is hope that when you fail to stand up for someone, the lesson sticks and makes you stronger in future situations like this.  Failure is temporary, calling for steadiness and calm going forward as your best etiquette-ful self.   After all, you fix mistakes along the way as you speak up for yourself, too.

"Strong people stand up for themselves. Stronger people stand up for others."
~ Chris Gardner

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