Dealing with Confrontation in the Workplace

Had an interesting lunch with some friends today who have some issues they want to address in their workplace. Here was my simple advice to them that I thought was worth capturing for the next time I’m upset about something and need to remind myself:

1. Ask questions – Don’t tell your boss or co-worker what their motivation or problem is. If you ask, they’re likely to tell you their reasoning or at least discuss their issues in a nice manner. Typically, you don’t want those questions to start with “why.” Why questions are usually blame-placing. Ask questions like, “Can you help me understand the reasoning behind….” I know it’s much more wordy, but you’re starting with the problem being your fault (you don’t understand) rather than their fault (they’re jackin’ your life up).

2. Discuss your problem. After you’ve listened (and you do have to listen, not work through your defense while they’re talking), you can better discuss your issues. Check your emotions! If it’s a hot-topic for you, be careful that you don’t let your emotions get too closely tied in. Although men and women are both full of emotions, men in the workplace often assume their female counterparts to emotionalize everything. It’s not fair, but often true. 2ndly, when you discuss your problem, discuss YOUR problem, not everyone else’s. If a co-worker has the same problem, don’t bring their name up. It’s a sure sign of insecurity if you feel you need to justify your opinion with everyone else’s opinion. If you’re not strong enough to voice your concern as your concern – don’t voice it at all.

3. Offer solutions. Don’t just bring the problem. They may already know there’s a problem. Bring them into your solutions. Involve them! What sacrifice can you make? How will this benefit everyone? What are some different ways to approach the same situation. Take the time to use active listening techniques – focus your attention on their comments, evaluate, restate them in a different way, and offer feedback.

5. Summarize. Take the time to clarify what will/will not change as a result of your conversation. Do this before leaving. Also leave room for what issues will need time for thought or research. Everything won’t be resolved right in that moment!

Hope that helps someone today!



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