Fifty-eight percent of Americans have found themselves in compromising conversations in which family, friends or co-workers describe using, or planning to use, illegal or unethical tax strategies, according to a recent survey from VitalSmarts. One-quarter of those respondents who had been caught in such conversations said they weren’t sure what to say or feared the consequences of voicing their opinion.
The top reasons given for avoiding taxing conversations include:
- None of my business – 38 percent
- I didn’t really care – 21 percent
- Feared consequences – 13 percent
- There wasn’t time – 2 percent
The remaining 16 percent cited “other” as their reason for avoiding tax conversations.
“One minute we’re talking casually with a co-worker and the next, we’re in the middle of a crucial conversation where we’re forced to deal with strong emotions and differing opinions,” said Joseph Grenny, co-author of the national bestseller “Crucial Conversations”. “In these real-time moments we either feel ill-equipped to hold others accountable and avoid the conversation altogether, or we speak up but allow external force to take control – resulting in a poor performance.”
Grenny offers the following tips to those who may find themselves in a compromising conversation:
- Decide if and who. When you hear about unethical or illegal violations, first decide if you will speak up and then to whom. Consider how well you know the person, the severity of the violation, and the other person’s awareness of what he or she is doing. For example, if a co-worker you hardly know brags about committing a felony, report the crime. On the other hand if a friend breaks a law and is unaware of the violation, you probably want to talk to him or her directly.
- Don’t accuse, ask. Begin with a non-accusatory question like “are you aware that strategy might actually be illegal?” see if the other person is aware of the possible offense. Often, after you raise the issue, the other person will say he or she wasn’t aware, ask for more details and back away from the offense.
- Share your concerns. If the person says, “of course I’m aware, but I’ll save a bundle of money!” you’re at a crossroads. Do you continue on of back off? With most friends you would probably feel comfortable explaining your concerns. Don’t lecture, but let them know you’re worried they are putting themselves and their reputation at risk. When it comes to breaking the law, try to be a friend and not an accomplice.
VitalSmarts is an innovator in corporate training and organizational performances that has helped more than 500,000 people worldwide.