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I'm trying to think of a word that conveys a respectful calling out of problematic behavior, particularly in a workplace environment.

e.g. someone makes a borderline sexist or racist comment, and a manager or HR says something like "let's be careful about that kind of language" or "we want to avoid using [term] because it can be insensitive to [group]".

It's not quite admonish or reprimand or scold. It's something gentler but still assertive. What's the word?

  • I was about to give you a hand-slap, but then I read your post and it was pretty well constructed. – Hot Licks Mar 30 at 19:25
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remind: Cause (someone) to fulfil an obligation or to take note of something.

with object and clause ‘the barman reminded them that singing was not permitted’ with object and infinitive ‘she reminded me to be respectful’ lexico: https://www.lexico.com/definition/remind

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I think the word you want is:

Chide

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chide

: to voice disapproval to : reproach in a usually mild and constructive manner :

Note, specificially the "mild and constructive" part.

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How about reprove (the verb form) and reproof (the noun form)?

To reprove someone is to express disappointment, disapproval, and criticism.

An even stronger word (but perhaps a little too assertive) is the word rebuke.

a sharp, stern disapproval of; reprove; reprimand; censure; admonish; reproach: rebuke his bad behavior

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This has a lot to do with the context in which the statement/observation is being made.

In the example provided educate would be a good option. We could say that the HR Manager educated the said employee on how such behavior can be perceived as sexist or racist.

to direct is also a good option. This is more high handed and assertive than to educate. This also conveys a different emotion as to educate

We could say that the HR Manager directed the said employee in office etiquette.

to instruct is also a viable option and is a milder version of to direct.

In some cases to counsel or to advice would be more appropriate. This again depends on where the HR Manager is coming from and what his/her intent is.

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