No matter how happy we are with ourselves, with our families, with our careers, we’re going to come into conflict with others from time to time, especially in the workplace where you have so many different personalities thrown together, where politics, hierarchies, and your particular “corporate culture” prevail. Eventually, problems will arise between you and a coworker and how you proceed can have a huge impact on your job satisfaction and on the trajectory of your career.
The First Step: You
First of all, it is important to be clear on what you want to say, so start with an internal evaluation? What do you see as the crux of the problem? What do you most want to convey to your coworker? To your superior? What solutions, if any do you see?
Try not to let your emotions override the logic and purpose of this first step. The goal here is not only to rationalize your emotional responses but to exorcise all the irrational and overemotional. If you’re angry, you’re allowed to be. You’re just not allowed to call your coworker that name you’ve been muttering under your breath all morning. Not without consequences anyway.
The Next Step: Them
Now that you know how you feel and what you want to say, the next step is to talk with your peer, paying careful attention to remain as clear and direct as you were in your final thoughts for the above step. By merely bringing up the issues that you have, professionally and composed, will show him/her that you are not willing to take difficulties or abuse lying down. Furthermore, it allows you to assert your own point of view, establishes your willingness to tackle problems head on, and offers your coworker a chance to state her/his case. At this point, you can work with him/her on the best way for you two to share information or make decisions.
If talking with this person doesn’t resolve the situation, assess whether you should involve others, especially your superior or his/hers. Be sure that you’ve resolved any lingering animosity, especially if the meeting above went poorly, so that your contacts with others are focused on the business needs. Any negative tone is apt to rebound against you, so it’s worth the time to resolve inner conflicts. Then, let her/him know the steps you’ve taken so it’s clear that you’re not going behind his/her back.
The Final Step: Follow-Through
Failure to follow through can be driven by workload, indifference or political game-playing. Regardless of the cause, direct and open communication followed by appropriate action helps you get what you need while maintaining your strength in the organization.