We have all been there; the power-hungry boss, gossiping receptionist, or the co-worker who is fake friends with everyone while eyeing promotions. You’re not alone, 85% of the workforce claims to experience workplace conflict. The workplace is a breeding ground for drama if you let it be.
Depending on your career and work culture, navigating the workplace conflict can be tricky. Sometimes the best thing is to keep your head down and ignore it all. This isn’t a bad tactic but it can lead to appearing as if you don’t care about your workplace culture with no ambitions to move up. If you’re looking for a stable day in day out job that pays the right amount – ignoring the conflicts is a great plan for you. However, be warned that your unhappiness with work can become so daunting it bleeds into every other area of your life. Making you all around miserable. The other option is to decide to contribute to a healthy work environment and work through the conflicts at hand.
WORKING THROUGH CONFLICT
Most people think working through conflict means sitting through counseling, mediations, or kumbaya moments around a fire pit chanting the company motto. Why? Why is it that our first notion of working through conflict looks like hours and hours of uncomfortable work? To truly work through conflict in every area of life is to know your role. Knowing what your actual job is and what your personal value for a healthy work environment is critical to a successful workplace.
For example, your boss is a procrastinator and is constantly changing deadlines making it impossible for you to finish your work on time. You stay late, skip lunches, and rearrange your entire life to meet the deadline and meet it a majority of the time. When review time comes the boss throws you under the bus for not completing projects on time. Rendering a smaller performance raise leaving a paper trail of a false picture of your work ethic. After this goes on for a while you are enabling a toxic work environment. Your boss is not setting you up for success and leaves you as the scapegoat for their shortcomings. Working through this conflict can feel daunting because of how long you’ve let it go. Giving yourself excuses as to why you can’t stand up for yourself. The truth is, you can. Not only can you but it can be done in a respectful way using these options:
- Express Your Boundaries: When working with others it is important to set your boundaries on how you handle business. This can look like sticking with specific hours for meetings, projects, and total time at work. In the example, it is best to approach the boss with your boundaries. “I really want to ensure your projects are done on time or early. But I cannot work past 6 pm.”
- Collaboration: Once you’ve discussed your boundaries it is important to approach the situation as a collaboration. This creates a healthy bond with your boss and takes away finger pointing. “I work best when I can anticipate the companies needs. Is it possible to set up a weekly meeting to discuss the current project and potential new ones? Tuesdays are a great day for me, what works for you?
- Be Consistent: Now that you have the initial uncomfortable part communicated the next area is to be consistent. When you tell your boss you cannot work past 6 pm – do not work past 6 pm. If you cannot skip lunches – don’t do it. mean what you say and say what you mean. Show you’re serious about your boundaries by following up with actions.
- Document, Document, Document: When you get a project – track the date you were told and the original due date. When the date is moved – take notes and get the communications confirmed through emails. At this point, it is important to CYA (Cover Your Ass). If your boss is unwilling to work with you to help you be successful – document your experiences in case it gets ugly down the line. If your boss is trying to sabotage you or blame their shortcomings on you, you have the backup to prove the truth of the dynamic.
Letting people run over you in the workplace creates a hostile environment – making it challenging to be productive. Knowing your role can help separate yourself from the anxiety these situations can bring. Keep your head up and don’t let the haters keep you down. It is important to not allow yourself to be a scapegoat for others. It can ruin your reputation not only in your company but in your town. Not only for your own good but for others as well. Sometimes bully bosses get away with their bad behavior because no one stands up to them. Not only are you standing up for yourself, you’re standing up for others.
This is the tip of the iceberg of workplace conflict. Many times we find ourselves in complex conflicts that call for us to step up to the plate. Knowing your role and taking ownership of your part is vital to a long-term healthy workplace.
Also published on Medium.