Work Politics

10 Classy Ways to Tell Someone Off Professionally at Work (+ Scripts)

classy way to tell someone off

If you’re dealing with a toxic workplace, don’t let it break you.

At some point in your career, you will be tested.

Difficult conversations with co-workers are bound to happen.

And being able to handle them with class is a must-have skill for every future leader.

In this article, we’ll breakdown exactly how to shut down shade from co-workers without even dropping an f* bomb.

Here are 10 classy ways to tell someone off professionally with scripts you can use. 

How to professionally tell someone off in an email

The best way to professionally tell someone off in an email is to NOT do it at all. 

When it comes to work conflicts, try to resolve things face-to-face or by phone.

Never send an email when you’re full of emotions. Or say anything problematic via email.

Once you put something in writing, you can’t take it back. And it can and will be used against you.

Remember emails can be forwarded and used as an excuse not to promote you. Shady I know!

Rather than telling someone off in an email. Here’s what to do instead:

Alternatives to Telling Someone Off in an Email

1. Take a walk and cool off

2. Do something that brings you peace

3. Invite the person to speak with you one-on-one once you’ve calmed down

4. Follow up on the conversion via email to summarize what was discussed (stick to the facts). And leave out anything that sounds toxic. 

How to Write a Follow-Up Email After a Difficult Conversation

Use this template to write a follow-up email after a difficult conversation.

Hello [name], thanks for taking the time to speak with me earlier. Here's a quick recap of our conversation. 

As mentioned earlier….[Enter the key takeaways from your conversation].

Moving forward…[Enter what was agreed upon].

Please advise on ….[Anything outstanding or unresolved from your conversation].

Happy to discuss this further.

Best,
[Your Name] 

10 Classy Ways to Tell Someone off

1. “Can you help me understand how you arrived at that conclusion?”

Sometimes people will say things that catch you off guard. In situations like these, gently encourage others to explain themselves.

I call this the “seek clarification approach.” Instead of jumping to conclusions. Let them explain their line of reasoning. 

And your job is to listen. Avoid interrupting. This allows the person to share their thoughts freely.

2. “I value your opinion and would love to pick up this conversation at another time.”

This is the classy version of “I don’t have time for this sh*t.”

As a best practice, never agree to have difficult conversations until you’ve had a chance to collect your thoughts. 

The “cool down and talk later approach” can be used when someone confronts you but you’re not prepared to talk.

It can also be used if you or the other person is too heated to have a productive conversation.

3. “Would you mind if we circle back on this? I want to make sure to give this the attention it deserves.”

Here’s another way to buy time to collect your thoughts. Rather them blowing the person off, offer up another time to speak.

Again, only engage in touchy conversations when you’ve had a chance to think things through. 

If you struggle with word vomit or have zero filter, this is definitely a strategy to keep handy.

4. “Would you mind walking me through your thought process?”

Rather than telling someone what they said sounds crazy af. Ask them to walk you through their line of thinking.

This shows an effort to understand where they’re coming from. Which makes you look like the bigger person.  

5. “With all due respect, I feel this conversation isn’t going anywhere. And think we should agree to disagree.”

If you’re serious about advancing your career, you can’t afford to be seen having heated conversations at work.

When a conversation is going in circles, feel free to end it. Time is money! 

Use the “shut it down approach” if you feel a conversation is going nowhere.  

 
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6. “Please advise on how I should move forward.”

If you’re dealing with a micromanager that won’t leave you alone. You’re probably thinking – “what tf do they want from me?”

But here’s what to say instead – “please advise on how I should move forward.” This makes you appear solutions-oriented

Use this the next time someone won’t get off your back at work. 

7. “I was hoping you could shed some light on [the situation]. What were you hoping to accomplish?”

When someone does something shady. Don’t lose your cool. Instead, ask what they were hoping to accomplish.

As much as possible, you want to assume positive intent when dealing with co-workers. And this question helps you understand their motives.

You may discover that their motives were entirely innocent…or not.

Depending on their answer, you can always agree to follow up on the conversation at another time.

8. “I have a different opinion.

Going against popular opinion shouldn’t be a reason for conflict. Unfortunately, it be like that sometimes. 

Especially in these “triggered” times we live in. It takes courage to have a different opinion nowadays.

Don’t shy away from expressing your unique views. The key is to disagree tactfully.

Use this phrase to challenge the beliefs of others with class. 

9. “You’re entitled to a different perspective.” 

At some point in your career, you’ll come across people who love to challenge everything you say.

These folks are often called the ‘devil’s advocate.’

With people like this, don’t go back and forth trying to over-explain yourself.

Simply let them know they’re entitled to a different opinion. Period.  

10. “Moving forward, I’d prefer…”

The next time you plan to tell someone off for screwing things up at work. Don’t. Instead, say “moving forward, I’d prefer [enter what you’d like to see done differently].”

Letting others know how they can improve is far more productive than staying focused on their mistake.

Keep this one handy as you move up in your career and become the boss.

Final Thoughts 

Becoming an emotionally intelligent leader requires knowing how to handle toxic conversations with class.

Hopefully, these classy ways to tell someone off give you a starting point!

If you’re new here, join our community with thousands of future leaders worldwide.

It’s free and you get instant access to our Career Center with free resources to help you upgrade your career! 

Remember to be patient with yourself while you’re learning. Leaders are built over time, not overnight. 

Over to You

When was the last time you thought about telling someone off at work? Let us know in the comments section on social @netwerkmovement.

Share this with a friend in a toxic work environment!

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