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How to Draw a Line in the Sand

It often takes a disaster before we stop and ask: “How could that have been prevented?” And: “How do we prevent this from happening again?”

As our country struggles with so many challenges – including state capture, we contemplate how we got to this place. Would you have the courage to be a whistle blower?  When whistle blowers are victimised and murdered, the perpetrators are allowed to continue unhindered. When whistle blowers are not protected, there is no incentive to report fraud and corruption. There is no line drawn in the sand to say: “Stop! Enough!” And the consequences …….? The same applies to organisations.

What company policies do we need to make it possible for an employee to report irregularities without retribution or ridicule? How do we deal with instances of sexual harassment? Why does it take so long for victims of sexual offences to come forward? Why do offenders get away with so much for so long? How does one prevent a state capture? 

These 9 tips will help you draw that line in the sand and prevent disaster.

1. Say “No”

People-pleasing may seem like a good trait to have, but it leads to burnout and resentment and in extreme cases the bad guys just continue doing what they do. It’s okay to say, No,” in a calm and positive manner & there’s no need to explain your refusal. Having taken a stand, keep to your decision. If you crumble under pressure, others will learn you can be swayed – so be firm.

2. Be decisive

Being decisive is part of assertiveness.  It ensures others take you seriously. Not knowing what you really want, comes across as uncertainty. Avoid over-thinking and flip-flopping on decisions. It opens you up to being taken advantage of by a manipulative partner, family member, superior or friend. Say what you mean and mean what you say by acting in ways that confirm the stance you have taken.

3. Communicate directly

Articulate your needs positively and proactively. Avoid being passive (submissive) or aggressive. People tend to take a passive approach as a way of avoiding conflict. Address the matter head-on. Talking around the issue can lead to confusion and disregard for your needs, feelings and expectations.

4. Speak up about misconduct

You cannot control the behaviour of others and there will be times they will do things that will make you feel violated. It could be anything from deception and stealing to cheating and abuse. If you say nothing, the behaviour will continue. What follows may be years of regret – a rot that festers in the soul.

Millions of people live in abusive situations or experience sexual harassment but remain silent. It doesn’t mean they like it. Perhaps they feel their opinions and feelings are not important. Perhaps they haven’t learned to be assertive. In many cases, people are fearful of the consequences, whether it’s losing a relationship, their children, job, a connection, or a certain lifestyle. Teach others how to treat you. Recognize your value, how you want to be treated and love yourself enough to say, “STOP” and speak up – report misconduct.

5. Assert your rights

This is especially valuable for establishing legal and ethical boundaries. Knowing and asserting your rights as an employee helps protect you from things like discrimination and sexual harassment. Some important rights / laws include the right to fair pay, paid overtime, leave to recover from illness and protection against retaliation.

Letting your employer know you’re familiar with your rights may educate them at the same time – they may not be familiar with employee rights. Approach them calmly and respectfully; avoid accusations when discussing any potential violation of your rights. Stating your rights can lead to positive changes in workplace policies and a better working environment for all. Policies need to be revisited regularly & be part of a positive performance management process.

6. Be confident

When you are confident, you’re able to stand up for yourself, your loved ones and for what is right – with ease. When you’re confident, you’ll also know when to back off. 

Confidence is a state of being self-assured and an essential requirement for a successful, happy life. Your beliefs about yourself influence how the world interacts with you. Confident people typically have healthy self-esteem. They know their worth and believe in themselves and their capabilities. Cockiness and arrogance are not signs of confidence.

Your confidence when expressing a need or asserting a right makes people listen to you. Confidence enables you to take criticism with ease, means you’re willing to acknowledge your mistakes and work on self-improvement.

7. Choose positive communication

Words are better received when they are conveyed in a positive, non-judgmental way. The right choice of words and a calm, friendly tone of voice encourage others to value what you say. Some call it being “tactful”. It should be balanced with directness. Choosing the appropriate time and setting & using positive language to communicate shows that you’re considerate of the other person’s feelings. Remember that silence is also an answer – sometimes the better answer. 

8. Be proactive – avoid being aggressive or submissive

Assertiveness allows you to pre-empt a situation and take steps to positively influence the outcome. There is no need to behave aggressively toward the other person when stating your rights, setting a boundary or attempting to get your needs met. Being submissive also won’t get you the results you seek. The best way to become proactive, is to shut up & listen actively before responding.

9. Set practical boundaries

Staying silent when you should speak up, set, or enforce a boundary may earn you the reputation of being a “nice guy”. Meanwhile, you’re furious and resentful inside because people take your kindness for weakness and walk all over you. Note that standing up for yourself isn’t a one-sided affair. While you’re focused on articulating your wants and needs, it’s fair to balance them with the needs and expectations of others.  

Drawing a line in the sand between you and others improves your self-esteem and relationships at work, home and in the community.

Your employees may need help dealing with interpersonal relationships, communicating assertively, handing conflict constructively, positive performance management, supervisory, management and leadership skills.

Trudi du Toit

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