Should we be more diplomatic at work?

Mastering diplomatic behaviour is essential, and knowing when and how to utilise it appropriately in different situations even more so


Being diplomatic at the workplace often evokes mixed reactions and diverse interpretations. For some, this kind of behaviour may not be corporate appropriate as it involves sugar coating issues or avoiding confrontations to appease others. However, some people believe diplomacy can actually be useful in many ways. Let’s look at some of the plenty of positive reasons:

Why is diplomatic behaviour advantageous?

Polite approach: Diplomatic individuals are very polite in their approach. “Non-diplomatic individuals tend to be more straightforward and may not always consider the feelings of others, potentially leading to conflicts or strained relationships within the team. On the other hand, diplomatic individuals are considerate in their approach, choosing their words carefully to avoid unnecessary offense,” points out Ramesh Shankar S, chief joy officer,

For instance, when providing negative feedback to someone, it is more considerate to do it privately on a one-on-one basis rather than in a public setting. Public criticism often leads to hurt feelings, as nobody wishes to be criticised openly. As a best practice, individuals — be it managers or junior-level employees — are best praised in public and offered constructive criticism in private. By providing feedback one on one, it is possible to demonstrate more politeness and diplomatic behaviour. Delivering feedback in front of others may be perceived as impolite or non-diplomatic behaviour.

Sensitivity and positivity: Highlighting his own experience, Anil Gaur, senior HR leader opines, “In my opinion, practising diplomatic behaviour at the workplace is generally considered beneficial, when approached thoughtfully and constructively.”

Diplomatic individuals usually handle situations with sensitivity, respecting diverse perspectives and fostering a positive and harmonious environment, especially in diverse cultures. This approach not only helps in conflict resolution but also enhances interpersonal relations.

“Practising diplomatic behaviour at the workplace is generally considered beneficial, when approached thoughtfully and constructively.”

Anil Gaur, senior HR leader

Trust and team spirit: “Diplomatic behaviour reflects kindness and politeness towards teammates and colleagues. This also fosters trust and goodwill among them, which can improve teamwork and cooperation,” enunciates Shankar.

Open communication: Diplomacy promotes open communication, allowing diplomats to welcome various ideas and enabling them to express concerns respectfully to senior leaders. As a result, discussions and decision-making processes become more productive. “Looking at diplomatic behaviour from this perspective, it contributes to building and promoting a culture of understanding, empathy and professionalism, leading to a positive and valuable workplace environment,” asserts Gaur.

Positive relationships: Another big advantage of diplomatic behaviour is that it allows individuals to manoeuvre through the corporate political landscape and maintain positive working relationships, thereby reducing unnecessary confrontations. For leaders, practising diplomacy aids in managing diverse teams, handling complex situations with tact and mindfulness, and nurturing a culture of open communication within the organisation.

Approachability: Being diplomatic at the leadership level works even better. “Diplomatic leaders are often perceived as approachable and empathetic, making them effective motivators and guides for their teams,” explains Gaur.

“Diplomatic behaviour reflects kindness and politeness towards teammates and colleagues. This also fosters trust and goodwill among them, which can improve teamwork and cooperation.”

Ramesh Shankar S, chief joy officer,


Team cohesiveness: Diplomatic individuals who exhibit politeness are indeed beneficial for team spirit and cohesiveness. For instance, if there has been an argument or a conflict, a more receptive response can be expected if someone points out that one’s behaviour towards someone was inappropriate, after the situation has calmed down. On the contrary, responding in the heat of the moment with similar behaviour would only perpetuate the conflict without any resolution.

Why diplomatic behaviour can be disadvantageous

Where diplomatic behaviour helps individuals navigate the office environment easily, it has certain cons as well.

“I prefer to describe the quality of behaving diplomatically as displaying good and polite behaviour rather than using the term ‘diplomatic’, which can sometimes be misinterpreted as hiding the truth or being deceptive,” clarifies Shankar. Instead, he advises that it is essential for a person to be honest while delivering information in a manner that the other(s) receive it well.

Misinterpretation: “Sometimes, people may misinterpret diplomatic behaviour as manipulative if not executed carefully, leading to trust issues,” cautions Gaur. Moreover, inadequate practice of diplomacy can hinder the decision-making process, causing delays and potentially impacting the organisation’s overall performance.

Varied perceptions: How people perceive a diplomatic person can vary among individuals, depending on the context and the intentions behind the actions. At the peer level, some may view diplomatic employees positively, appreciating their ability to handle various situations gracefully. However, others may question the authenticity of their actions, suspecting that their diplomatic approach may hide ulterior motives.

Therefore, it’s essential to strike a balance and adopt a genuine approach to diplomacy. After all, it is crucial to maintain a positive perception and avoid misinterpretations. This balance (encompassing both diplomacy and genuineness), is vital for long-term survival in an organisation. “While diplomatic behaviour can be helpful, relying on it excessively may lead to challenges and potential failure. A mix of diplomatic and upfront individuals in a team creates a harmonious and productive work environment, promoting sustainability and success,” asserts Gaur.

Also, “100 per cent reliance on diplomatic behaviour may not be sustainable over the long run,” opines Gaur. Hence, it is essential to strike a balance between diplomacy, genuineness and authenticity. Relying too heavily on diplomacy (50 per cent or more) or being too upfront can lead to challenges and potential failure. A well-balanced team that includes both diplomatic and straightforward individuals contributes to overall success and sustainability in the long term.

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