When You Confront a Coworker

Coworkers can press our buttons. This is to be expected, especially in a traditional office setting. Just like with any other relationship, it’s important for us to share how we feel and to do so clearly and with purpose. Coworker relationships are different from friendships, however. We must maintain our professionalism and strive to keep our emotions at bay.

Don’t Gossip

After a serious conversation with a coworker, do NOT gossip about the conversation with other colleagues. Keep the dialogue between the two of you, in hopes to come to a resolution. Of course, if the boss needs to be brought into the loop, then it is appropriate to share your conversation with her. But, do so only to follow proper company protocol (or to open the lines of communication) and not because you want to throw your colleague under the bus.

Make your Point Clearly and Move On

If you decide to air your problem via email, do NOT follow it up with a second “Oh, and another thing” heated email. You got what you needed to say off of your chest. Now, wait patiently for a reply. Of course, if you made a mistake by sending that email and want to retract it, do not wait too long. Follow up with a quick apology for pressing send too quickly, and also apologize in person or by phone.

Take Time to Cool Off

Once you share your perspective via email, it is appropriate to let things cool down a bit. If your coworker responds in a huff, then reply with the suggestion that you both take a couple of hours to mull the situation over. If your coworker shares that she would like to discuss the matter further, then suggest that you meet in person to do so. It is much easier to communicate feelings and to ensure that messages are received as intended when you do so face-to-face or by phone as compared to by email or text.

Take the High Road

If you left a difficult conversation feeling unsure about your relationship, take the high road and offer an olive branch by stopping by your colleague’s desk at the end of the day. Share that you are glad that you had the chance to talk and that you hope that things are smooth from here on out. Offer to chat again if he wants to clear the air further.

Be Direct yet Professional

Be as direct as possible without trying to be hurtful. Meet in person whenever possible. Look directly at the person and actively listen when she speaks. When it’s your turn to talk, try the sandwich method. Start with something positive, then share the tough feedback, and then finish with a compliment. Make sure that the compliment is sincere. Dig deep, if needed, to find a common ground. For instance, “I appreciate your dedication to your job” is a good compliment that isn’t directly related to your relationship yet is still well-received by a colleague. Use clear language and include phrases like, “In order for me to be most productive, I need….” or “It really upsets me when…”

Create an Electronic Paper Trail

Follow up in-person conversations with a recap email to create a paper trail and to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Offer to meet again to clear the air, if needed.

 

Copyright© 2018 Amy Cooper Hakim

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