Ask Debbie Lundberg: Dear Reluctant Sponsor

Hi Deb!

Your new TBBW feature is cool and, as long as my name is not used, I would LOVE my question to get answered. Here it is – What do you do when a manager is rude or dismissing someone else, in a meeting and the person doesn’t report to you. I want to be a good mentor, and sponsor, yet the politics can get in the way. Thanks!

Dear Reluctant Sponsor:

It’s good you noticed, so give yourself credit for the awareness you had of the situation, as well as the fact that you don’t like the politics driving your behaviors, or lack thereof.

Because your Emotional Intelligence kicked in, you are in a position many find themselves facing, which is the question of “Do I stand up for someone else at the risk of my own standing/place here?”

I believe people are innately good and situations can bring out the less than wonderful aspects of all of us. 

Things to consider in these types of situations:

Has this person ever acted this way before?

Was what you saw, and felt, real or imagined?

Are you going to approach this person with kindness and professionalism if you address this or are you fueled by anger?

If you are angry, you have the right to be, simply focus on the other two questions to get the direction and, therefore, the energy and the words, which direct toward a resolution and not a fight. If the person has acted this way before, there is a pattern. And, as long as what you saw/felt is based on what was in front of you and not a bias against the person, that is real.

If you decide to address it, and I hope you do, your approach, once vetted with those previous questions, is one of purpose and resolve. Keep the belief that you would want someone to let you know if you upset/offended/dismissed someone if that happened inadvertently, so you are going to be empathetic and share your perspective for changing behavior (not gossip or attacking) to serve both the person dismissed and the dismissive person.

You will likely want to either schedule 10 minutes on the person’s schedule with the subject being “Question Regarding Approach,” or, if you can connect where others cannot hear you , you can say “NAME, is this a good time to spend 5-10 minutes talking through how something was approached in the meeting?” 

This way, the person has a time and context for their reply. Once in the meeting, you can begin by saying, “I am coming to you with something that may be slightly uncomfortable. I say that because in thinking about it, you’re likely a leader who would want real input, right?” Get agreement and proceed with, “That’s what I thought, so you will receive this as feedback and not criticism when I share that you may, or may not, have realized the way you responded to NAME OF OTHER PERSON appeared, and even felt, dismissive in the XYZ meeting.” Wait for any reply. No matter what, even if the person is defensive, let them feel their feelings and say something along the lines of “Thank you for being open to my input and observation, and if you want to apologize to NAME OF OTHER PERSON, or want me to accompany you to do that, either works. And I appreciate knowing you will be mindful of how your influence impacts us all and, therefore, your being respectful will impact us all positively.” And then, leave it.

Keep in mind, they have the right to disagree, or argue, and you are not going to “fight back,” rather you will stay focused on the professionalism and the way leading matters. Most (not all) people receive kind feedback with a tinge of embarrassment and a lot of (eventual) gratitude that can appear defensive at first. Let the person have time and space to do what is best for the relationship, and the organization, which is apologize and correct the behavior. 

If that person does, or does not, you will likely not know. Still, if the behavior persists, address them similarly with the tweak of saying “Either you can apologize to NAME or we can do it together, as that is, as you surely agree, not the culture we want to foster here.”

Is it uncomfortable? Sure. Is it a form of leadership and sponsorship? Yes. Do you want to work somewhere that you cannot kindly bring up a faux pas or a direct insult? I doubt it. Let the culture be directly impacted by your confidential courage to bring it up and get it addressed rather than your culture backslide into bullying.

Thank you for caring and best wishes being clear, caring and with a positive outcome!



Have a question for one of Tampa Bay Business and Wealth’s Experts? Email your question to Managing Editor Jo-Lynn Brown, at [email protected], and she will forward your “Ask the Experts” question to the writer best suited to answer your question. 

Debbie Lundberg is the founder and chief executive officer of the Florida-based firm Presenting Powerfully, where she delivers keynotes, facilitation, teaching and coaching. As a 12-time published author, certified virtual presenter, certified life coach, certified leadership coach and certified image consultant, Lundberg co-hosts the Business of Life Master Class podcast. Her book, Remote Work Rockstar, is a guidebook for working, and leading, virtually. She recently ended a four-year commitment as chair of the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red, in order to serve on the Patient and Family Advisory Council for Tampa General Hospital.

You May Also Like

Navigating the Waves of Change: The Silver Tsunami’s Impact on Real Estate and Elder Care

The demographic landscape is undergoing a seismic shift as baby boomers reach retirement age—often called the “Silver Tsunami.” As of the 2020 census, one in six people in the United

Navigating the Waves of Change: The Silver Tsunami’s Impact on Real Estate and Elder Care
Avoid These 4 Common Investing Mistakes People Make in a Slow Economy

You probably remember hearing all about the Titanic in great detail during history class. You might remember how this ship was described as the epitome of luxury and had been

Avoid These 4 Common Investing Mistakes People Make in a Slow Economy by Dr. David Phelps
Where ‘Smart’ Money Is Going As the Economy Declines

Despite most TV pundits loudly proclaiming over the last few years that the US economy is strong, inflation is just transitory, and capital is plentiful, they’ve finally started to admit

Where ‘Smart’ Money Is Going As the Economy Declines - Dr. David Phelps
Ask the Experts: Beware of the underdog

Underdogs are highly regarded, and celebrated, throughout history and sports. Think JK Rowling, Robin Hood and King Arthur. The “Cinderella team”— Miracle on Ice.  Underdogs are legendary because they defy

Other Posts

Ask Debbie Lundberg: Out of office, out of mind

Dear Debbie,  Can you help with some Out of Office (OOO) coaching? I recently took some time off from work, but I always try to be available for urgent matters

Ask the Experts: Selling in an AI World

In case you haven’t noticed, a shift in the profession of selling is underway. This shift – the digital empowerment of buyers – has been rumbling for a while but,

What are your sales forecasts this year?

By now, you should have already completed your sales forecasting for 2024 and be well on your way to laying the groundwork for a wildly successful year. Sometimes I find,

What’s a strategic partner and do you need one?

Have you ever found yourself pondering, “Do I need a strategic partner or is my executive assistant ready to level up and become the MVP in strategic moves?” Let’s ditch