Michael Sterling

Office Etiquette: Responding vs. Reacting

Life throws curve balls. What do you do? Respond or react? Responding vs. reacting can make or break a career.


On the surface responding and reacting may appear to be one and the same. They’re not.


Responding vs. Reacting


  • Reacting is: knee-jerk; without thought to the situation and is often aggressive.
  • Responding is: calm, collected and with thoughtful consideration.


Reacting is driven by beliefs, biases and the unconscious mind. Reacting to a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation can be life-saving. The adrenaline rush can thwart off an attacker or get you to safety.


Reacting in the workplace will likely have negative impact. Perhaps you’ve been witness to an office tantrum. It’s not pretty. If your natural instinct is to use anger; run and hide; or cry, you’ll damage your reputation and your future. Professional maturity – how you manage yourself – is a necessary soft skill. The ability to self-regulate and control your actions in the office is a key component to success.


Responding takes self-control. Preparing a thoughtful and appropriate reply requires presence of mind. Take a breath. Process all information. A properly formed response takes into consideration short-term and long-term consequences as well as the effect on colleagues.


The difference between responding and reacting not only looks different, it feels different. Our gut knows when we’ve mishandled a situation. It feels bad and weighs heavy. Reacting leaves us weak and embarrassed. Responding is empowering and gratifying. It bonds us with our colleagues and builds our sense of self-worth.


When you’re faced with responding vs. reacting – choose wisely. Stop and think before acting.


Career Wellness

Interested in more career nutrition? Check out the Career Wellness section of the SterlingFreeman website.


Seeking a new Public Accounting opportunity? SterlingFreeman recruits exclusively for Public Accounting. View our full list of premier public accounting positions nationwide. And connect with me on LinkedIn



Find Public Accounting Jobs






© 2022 Sterling Freeman   |  Privacy Policy