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Resolving Workplace Conflicts

You are not a snitch. You don’t talk about your colleagues behind their backs. And you are an A-class team-player. But there simply are situations when your last resort is to go up to a supervisor or your immediate boss with a challenging situation that involves another colleague. Tricky, tricky. What’s an alpha female to do? 

If you are smart, you’ll realize that the issue is actually two-fold: it’s not just about resolving the conflict with your colleague but also about making sure that your supervisor doesn’t end up thinking about you as a whiny, unproductive team-player. Double bonus points for you if you walk out of that meeting look like a professional, assertive star. And I’m going to share that secret with you.

Passed on to me by a fifteen-year old corporate world veteran who has slowly risen up the ranks at a global marketing and advertising agency, this secret is going to show you how to kill two pesky little issues with one smart question.

Do not schedule a meeting with your supervisor or your boss about this issue. Instead, find an informal setting where you can be assured that you will be alone and undisturbed with your supervisor. (However, this also depends on the situation and the gravity of the nature of your issue)

When you have fifteen to twenty minutes of undivided attention from your supervisor, start your conversation in a nonchalant manner. Here’s a script you must consider using:

“So, there’s something I need your advice on.”

Your supervisor/boss will be flattered and say, “Sure, how can I help you?”

To this you will respond, “Well, it’s actually to do with (insert colleague name.) I’m having a challenge with him/her regarding (insert your issue, be brief and do not overshare). What would you do if you were in my situation?  

Your supervisor will pause and think. You aren’t complaining. You haven’t asked your supervisor to solve this issue for you. And chances are, your supervisor/ boss is going either going to tell you how to deal with it or say that he will address it himself (if the issue is too serious)

Nudge your supervisor until you feel that you have clear direction on how to deal with the issue.

“Can you offer me a little more specific direction ? It would be really helpful as I want to make sure our team continues to produce best results.”

And chances are, you will walk out feeling confident, less stressed, and actually feeling lighter.

What you’ve done with this strategy is a few things:
1. Made sure that your supervisor was aware of the situation.
2. Made your supervisor feel important by asking him for his/her advice and asking them to consider the situation from your point-of-view.
3. Positioned yourself as a good team-player by putting the best interests of your team up front
4. And lastly, not stained your own conscience by whining or complaining too much to your supervisor about your colleague. (You have your best friends to whine to - not your boss. Plus, it’s just doesn’t show integrity of character when you bitch about a colleague that way.)

Do you have any tricks or ideas that you’ve used to resolve workplace conflicts? I’d love to hear them.

In my next article, I’ll be touching a rather sensitive issue ... Race in the Workplace.