Posts Tagged ‘conflict at work’
Who doesn’t have a list of things they’d like their manager to do differently? Everything from the way he slurps that first cup of coffee in the morning to how he plays his staff against one another is a frustration. Though it’s possible to make adjustments in any working relationship, there are still going to be some things that don’t change; no matter your efforts. What then? Here are a few ideas.
Give it one more (different) try: Before you give up completely give it another shot. But, this time try something new. If the silent treatment hasn’t worked in the past, perhaps actually talking about the issue will. Or, if you’ve asked him to stop doing something, maybe asking him to start doing the opposite will help him visualize what it is you’d like. Be careful, though, not to gang up, speak for others, or be underhanded in your new approach. The point here is for you to examine whether or not your method is getting in the way of a resolution.
Stop complaining: The amount of energy you expend talking about, worrying about, and obsessing over your manager’s behavior is only draining you. Plus, you may be alienating others with your constant complaints or myopic view of what’s happening. Lamenting about your manager at work erodes your reputation and doesn’t change a thing. If he gets wind of your criticisms from others, rest assured he will not be open to your assessment of his behavior; and he even may set out to prove that he’s the one with the power here, thank you very much. Instead of becoming mired in your desire to change him, look for a different outlet for your attention and put your energy there.
Find the positive: If the aforementioned coffee slurping manager has great mentoring skills, concentrate on that aspect of your working relationship and let the other stuff go. See if you can find a learning opportunity in the situation. Maybe this is a chance for you to step outside yourself and extend a little compassion to him. Even feeling dumped on with extra work and big projects allows you to beef up your resume if and when you’re ready to leave.
Adapt: If your boss is significantly set in his ways you may not be the first person to come along and try to change things. Instead, try changing how you react to what’s happening. Look for ways to respond to him when he pushes your buttons that won’t escalate your anxiety or cause your blood pressure to spike. Is it possible that your expectations are what are causing your frustration? Adapting to personal preferences for how another person behaves isn’t easy, but it’s certainly possible.
Plan your exit: When you simply can’t handle your current situation, consider what’s important and follow a strategy for a period of time that feels comfortable and right for you. Your plan may include eventually leaving your present work environment, or you may decide that staying where you are is the best thing to help you reach your goal for a secure retirement, continued health benefits, or simply a good letter of recommendation. Knowing what you want (and when) helps you look beyond the current situation and temporary problems to something that more closely matches your needs.
Suddenly it comes to you; that great idea that solves a tough problem or helps the company move to the next level, or just make everyone’s job a little easier. Your thought is innovative, well-presented, and then, yikes!, ripped off.
Idea theft can put you in an awkward position. How do you take back ownership of your intellectual property without looking like a toddler grabbing back her favorite teddy bear from a kid on the playground? I like to start by treating the act much like I would if I suspected my friend’s husband was cheating on her. You could do the same. Go to the person you believe has hijacked your idea and start the conversation by saying you’re just checking on something. Then outline the events that have caused you to believe the person took credit for your idea. Be open to the possibility that you have misinterpreted what’s happened so ask a question like, “From your perspective, how was that idea generated?” followed by, “Do you remember us talking about it in my office?” If he tells a different story, say something like, “Maybe we’re remembering it differently” and then share your recollection. The purpose of asking the questions and sharing your perspective is to create the space for the person to talk openly about what happened without getting defensive.
After you’ve completed the fact-finding phase, clearly state your expectations moving forward. For example, state, “In the future I’d like any ideas we discuss together to be presented together. As far as this instance goes, I’d like you to let (whomever) know that this was my idea. You can do that on your own, we can do it together, or I can do it on my own. Which would you prefer?” If you end up doing it on your own, avoid sounding like a tattletale. Go to your boss and say you’d like his advice on how to handle something. Briefly go over the events and say that how the idea was presented was surprising to you. Ask, “How should I deal with this so that I’m setting good boundaries but not upsetting the group dynamics?”
And, speaking of bosses, what if the idea thief is your boss? Admittedly, that’s a little trickier than dealing with a coworker, so start by deciding if it’s worth it to you to say something at all. Is this the first time he’s taken credit for your plan? Is it a somewhat small idea? Could it have been an oversight on his part? If the answer is yes, make a mental note and see if it happens again. Then, wait a bit to see how thing unfold. Your boss may still have plans that include you so see if she’s going to ask you to take the lead, share your idea with the group, or take an active role in determining next steps. Again, make a mental note and watch the path the idea takes.
If your boss misses opportunities to give you credit or fails to acknowledge your contribution in other ways, do a few things differently moving forward. Share any ideas you have with an audience and ask how the idea will be shared with others. Saying something like, “Would you like me to present the idea or provide a few slides for when you share my idea with everyone?” sends the message that you’re making note of the fact that this is your idea and you have an expectation that she will include you in the opening credits. You can even try something a little more lighthearted to make your point by saying, “I’m making a note of this so that if the idea gets used, I can add it to the plus side of my review!”
If you’ve decided that you’re okay addressing the issue with your worth boss, a private conversation is the only way to go. Start by letting him know that you’re excited the idea was used, that you had hoped your name would have been mentioned, and that you were disappointed when that didn’t happen. Then shut up! Give him space to respond and keep the door open to talk about how the two of you will handle similar situations in the future.
Let your boss know about what motivates you (recognition, job security, job growth, responsibility). Let him know that you believe your job is to make him look good while building your own career. Ask if, in the future, there could be a way for him to present ideas that reflect well on both your reputations.
Finally, keep in mind that ideas in the workplace don’t necessary belong to us. There’s a balance between doing what’s right for the company and doing what’s right for you as an individual. And, because of that you should never gossip about the situation to others, keep good ideas only to yourself, or become really angry at others you think are treading on your territory. Trying to hurt the organization almost always ends up hurting you and your reputation—and that’s not an original idea on my part at all!
Whether it’s the guy who interrupts every meeting with his never-ending complaints or the gal who stomps around the office for no apparent reason, it’s no fun dealing with a crabby co-worker. In fact even the calmest employee has been known to lose his cool once in a while when having to contend with the antics of a sourpuss in the workplace. The easy assumption is that the Grumpy Gus you’re up against is purposefully wreaking havoc just to needle you. That may be true in some instances, but such an explanation is more the exception than the rule. Considering these surprising things about your coworker will help you deal more effectively with his irritability.
1) He’s not out to get you. It sure feels like he’s campaigning to get you fired, publically embarrass you, or wants to take credit for your hard work, but the truth is you shouldn’t take his nit-picking personally. He’s not interested in taking anything away from you, per se; he’s really just interested in gaining something for himself. Use open-ended questions to figure out what it is he’s trying to achieve so you can help him redirect his poor attitude in a way that will help him accomplish his goals.
2) Other people like him. Yes, someone out there loves him. He happily participates in interests and hobbies with family and friends where he’s actually kind to other people. Try seeing the whole person instead of the small slice of negativity he shows you on a daily basis. Doing so will make it easier to show him a little compassion, which can make even the iciest amongst us melt. A well-placed greeting or question about his family will have him looking at you as an ally rather than an enemy.
3) He could add value to your career goals. It may be hard to fathom, but it’s quite possible that he could actually have an idea or two about how you might take the next step in your career or how you might complete your current project with an ingenious twist that’ll get you noticed. Only looking to your buddies for feedback and advice could be a mistake. The office grouch may have a shorter fuse when you propose new ideas simply because he’s “been there, done that.” You won’t know unless you ask, and you just might learn a thing or two in the process.
4) He has bad days, too. Assuming that he never gets up on the wrong side of the bed, doesn’t know what it’s like to have a bad hair day, or never becomes frustrated with a weight loss program puts your cranky co-worker into a superhuman category. No one is super human, so cut him a little slack. Perhaps there are bigger issues like healthcare, family problems and financial worries that have him seeing the problems at work as minor. His poor behavior may be temporary, so it’s okay to treat it as such.
5) He may be surprised at how his actions impact you. Taking a few minutes to have a well-intentioned conversation with Mr. Crabapple could change everything. Privately asking if you’ve done something to offend him is a great way to open a discussion about his tone, body language, or approach. He could believe that he’s coming across as someone who takes his job seriously when, in fact, you’re interpreting his lack of a smile as a personal slight. He’ll appreciate a gentle and sincere approach to what otherwise could be a contentious and defensive debate.
The other morning at 7am I was ready to hit the treadmill when a reporter from Australia called. Quick! He wanted to know the top five tips I would give someone who was facing conflict at work. Here’s the finished article… http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/blogs/work-in-progress/working-with-the-enemy/20100709-102ia.html