When you’ve got problems at work, you’ve got real problems. If you and your co-workers are at odds, almost nothing good can come out of it. This is true no matter who carries the day. And it doesn’t matter if you are having a problem with someone at your own level, a subordinate or even a manager. Work conflicts are no good.
But there is hope. In fact, I recently stumbled on a process that helped eliminate a problem I thought would never be solved.
I was doing a little business consulting recently and there was one person on the team with whom I clashed. I was hired to lead the group but Jim was acting like he was in charge. At first I was really upset. But after I calmed down, I came up with a process that made this conflict disappear. Here’s how the problem was solved:
1. No Ego
When I’m angry, I like to ask myself why. Usually, it’s because my ego gets roughed up and certainly that was in the mix in this situation. The problem is that anger – even justifiable anger- doesn’t resolve problems. In fact, it usually makes them worse. Even though I thought I was right about the situation, I had to check my frustration at the door. This was the first and most important step to take if I wanted to do a good job, get called back and advance.
2. What Are The Problems?
My problem was that this Jim was stopping me from doing what I was hired to do. But Jim also had a problem. From his standpoint, I was an outsider who didn’t know a thing about the company and I was telling him how to do his job.
Even though I was miffed, I could also understand Jim’s feelings. In fact, I had to understand Jim if I really wanted to resolve the issue.
3. The Universal Solution
Once I saw what the problems were, I realized that we each had conflicting understanding of our respective roles. Our process was derailed and I needed to put it back on track.
I send Jim an email and asked him to define both our roles in the process and that’s when I realized what lay at the heart of the problem. The boss hired me to lead the group. But Jim thought the boss put him in charge and that I was his consultant.
By asking this simple question, it became clear what to do. I thanked Jim for his input of course. Then I got clarification from the owner who affirmed my leadership role and communicated it again to Jim.
I believe that the key to solving most work problems is to calm down first, figure out where the jam-up is and then ask the other party how they see their and your role. You’ll probably find that there is a lack of understanding and agreement as to who is responsible for what. Get that clarified and then get buy-in. Once you do, your problems should be solved.
If this doesn’t work, you could be surrounded by bozos and it could be time to make a change. But if you are working with an adult, they should be able to understand and respect the idea that someone has to make a decision at the end of the day. If they think that person is them and you think it’s you – sparks are going to fly my friend.
Get clarification and agreement on the process before debating any particular issue. This is important because the issue ain’t the issue. The process is the problem.
Have you ever dealt with a problem like this? How did you resolve it?