Problems With Coworkers? Learn to Diffuse a Potential Career Landmine
Have you ever had to confront a colleague or teammate? How did you manage to express yourself? Was the result as you expected?
Communication is everything. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Your career can be shaped by how you deal with a dispute, confrontation or crisis. Spontaneous, heated squabbles damage your credibility and respect.
While you can share your message in a number of ways, some can obscure what you’re saying. Instead, people will be busy deciding how to react to your innuendo. Language is a strong conductor of messages and catalyst of emotions, and your choices of expression are vast. Choose wisely.
The most common sins we commit when we’re annoyed with a coworker:
- Criticizing in public. “Before we conclude the meeting, I’d like to discuss one more issue. Mr. Smith is incompetent to deal with a task. I hope that my mention of this situation in front of the board of directors will finally force you to solve the persisting problem.”
- Making accusations. “You always have to undermine everything. We would have finished the project long ago if you didn’t pick everything apart.”
- Arousing guilt and shame. “This is how you repay me for sticking up for you?”
- Using insults and abuse. “If it weren’t for your crippled wife, I’d kick you out in no time.”
- Asking a question when you already know the answer. “Where were you at 10:00 this morning?” (You already know your junior assistant was out of office dealing with private matters.)
- Not justifying a critical remark. “That is definitely not what we are going to do. End of discussion.”
- Quoting unknown sources. “I heard you were unhappy about that new employee appraisal system.”
If you make the above or similar remarks and expect improvement, it’s not going to happen. What you’ll achieve instead is a sour atmosphere and even more friction. The wrongdoer isn’t considering options to make up for the mistakes, but ways to relieve their pain. They’ll probably complain to the rest of your team and officially name you a… well, you can imagine what they’d name you.
Before you speak, steady yourself, gauge your own attitude and make a conscious decision about what kind of reaction you wish to evoke: understanding and improvement or anxiety and resentment. If you choose the first option, stick to this list of tips:
- Focus on the facts. “You were late with the report twice this quarter.”
- Talk about the negative effects of the negligence. “Because of the delays, I didn’t manage to complete the summary report.”
- Clarify your expectations. “This month, I’d like you to send me the report three days before the deadline.”
- Don’t make it the person; make it about their behavior.
- Explain the reasons for your criticisms and why they’re important.
- Communicate with “I,” not “you.”
- Be brief and to the point.
The message still won’t be comfortable for the person on the receiving end, but their feelings won’t suffer and they’ll understand your reasons. They’ll know you’re treating them seriously and will accept your stance and respect you.
Confrontations will always be uncomfortable, if not difficult, for both sides. They could ruin your career. To make matters more comfortable and easier, address the issues, not the person, and concentrate on the outcome. Otherwise, all you’ll gain is new, creative labels.
Sylvia Rytarowska is an entrepreneur, coach and English philology graduate. She is an advocate of making science more accessible to regular readers and is obsessed with psychology, self-development and sports. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook and visit her site here.
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