In our career, we don’t get to always choose our co-workers and I know I have butted heads with some of my colleagues. As an HR professional and Coach, I’ve been called into sticky situations. I’ve handled them well and other times wished for a do-over. In my personal life, I have had to practice difficult conversations repeatedly, ugh. Whether at the water fountain or dinner table, I would love to share epiphanies I’ve had along the way that improved the situation so you can avoid my mistakes.
Address the issue. We all spend a lot of time at work and the energy should be positive. If you feel that there is tension arising inside you or between you and a co-worker or boss, address it. If it goes unexplored, further negative feelings can build up inside you and a more negative consequence will develop. No action is an action, don’t get caught up in that. How you address it could be done in various ways.
Reflect. Recognize your emotions and take a minute to journal them out or take some deep breaths to connect to their root. Is the tension building because of their actions or your reactions? Find out what is truly bothering you so that you can either voice it or let it go. Productive conversations cannot happen when they are fueled my emotions.
Let it go. Perhaps one of the things that drives you crazy is the way that one of your co-workers slurps soda. After reflecting on your emotions about this, perhaps it is something you can let go. Taking up negative energy about something you really don’t have control over is just wasted time. If it is something that has a negative impact on you or others, voice your needs.
Get perspective. Being in the exact same situation as someone else, never means you are perceiving things in the same way. Each person lives life only through their eyes. Take a second to remember that we are all here for one reason and come with positive and negative baggage. Have empathy. It is important to understand your perspective and respect theirs. You may have no idea what is going on in your co-worker’s life. Find gratitude for this person, even if it’s for having them be a challenge in your life for the lesson.
Timing is everything. When having a conversation that you think might be difficult, it is always best to schedule a time to do it. Do it privately so your co-worker feels less on the spotlight. If it can be casual, ask the person to grab a coffee with you so it can be friendlier and an invitation to connect. This will reduce your co-worker feeling caught off guard. If you end up having an emotional day, ask to reschedule as soon as possible.
Prepare & gain understanding. Organize your thoughts and write bullet points. This way you know clearly what you want to have heard. Jot down any questions you have so you can better understand the situation from all perspectives.
Set intention. In preparation of the conversation, determine what your true intention of confronting your issue is. Be positive with your intention. If your intention is to just set someone straight or tell them off, it might be productive. At the beginning of the conversation communicate your intention to your co-worker. Examples may be; “I want our project to be smooth”, “I am feeling tension between us and I want to offer space for us both to be heard”, “I want to improve our communication”, “I want to make sure we are on the same page about our deadlines”.
Remove attachment of outcome. Hopefully the steps you have taken thus far starts the conversation out on a positive note, but remember that you have no idea what the other person’s perspective is. It might take them time to process information or feedback and may not receive it in a positive way no matter how diplomatically you present it. Stick with your intention and your needs of being heard in a kind way. Always act with integrity and authentically and know you’ve done your best. This way, you can be sure not to take things personally or have regrets.
Be open minded. This should not always be a one-sided conversation (unless something inappropriate or illegal is of concern). Be sure to hear what your co-worker says and take it with grace. What they say may or may not be true, but it could also help you realize what you can be doing differently to improve the situation.
Follow up. If possible, create agreements between each other as to how you will move. Schedule a follow up conversation to check in to see how everything is going and build the relationship.
Get support. Don’t air your dirty laundry around the office. If you felt that your situation needs be escalated, do so in the proper manner or from the outside. It can be helpful to talk through your emotions and the situation confidentially with someone you trust to help gauge your position.
Self-care. We should always be kind to ourselves, but it is especially important in times of mental or emotional stress. Be sure to meditate, journal, exercise, eat well, take a break or whatever your practice is, so that you be better prepared to ride this wave in a healthy way.
Difficult conversations are a part of life. Office settings can be more difficult because of the perception of authority and power. Hopefully we all have the same productive goal and can learn from ourselves and each other. We will make mistakes and things can be messy. Try your best and if it doesn’t work, try again in a different way.
Do you have a sticky situation in your career you could use some coaching on? Schedule a 30 Minute Coaching session to help navigate the next steps.