Have you ever had a situation where you were uncomfortable confronting a coworker? The desired outcome is always to solve the bigger problem you are faced with, but there are times when being worried about the actual confrontation gets in the way.
Preparing for a conversation with a coworker after they screwed something up can stir up a frenzy of negative thoughts. However, putting the focus on being fair, authentic, and capable of finding a solution to the problem will always generate better results.
Believe me, there is a solution to every problem, but depending on your mindset there can be very different outcomes. When I choose to trust my problem solving skills, I am able to open the door to more possibilities. For me, the idea is to clear as much space in my brain as possible to make room to create solutions. By eliminating fear and doubt, I am making more space, and maybe you can too.
There was a time when I got nervous when I knew I was about to have a difficult conversation with a coworker. I found myself concerned with putting on an “HR friendly face” and using proper “HR speak.” I was able to return to the safety of my office and call a peer who will make me feel better because I know they “get it.” I quickly learned that drawing a smiley face on a Band-Aid wasn’t a long term solution.
To get out of the Smiley Face on a Band-Aid mindset, I like to play out two scenarios. I call this game “I-don’t-wanna-do-this / I-got-this.” This is a good exercise to put things into perspective when I am about to approach a difficult situation. For this example “Bobby” is my fictional coworker who I confront for screwing up an assignment.
First, let me give you a scenario. I am on my way to meet Bobby to address the situation. I like Bobby as a person, but a project was just screwed up because Bobby dropped the ball. It was an honest mistake but not the first time it has happened.
Let’s first explore what happens when, on my way to chat with Bobby, I choose the “I-don’t-wanna-do-this” frame of mind.
The internal dialogue happening is, “This is so frustrating! I’m swamped and barely able to handle my own workload, and now I have to fix this problem that I didn’t even cause. I can get through this if I smile, breathe, and hide my frustration. That way I will look like a good team member.”
At this this stage in the game, I like to point how out the unnecessary and unhelpful negative thoughts are, and how much useful space they take up. By understanding how useless negative thoughts are, it helps me want to work harder to get rid of them. I work through it by addressing each negative thought, and the consequences of holding onto it.
- When I am consumed with worry about how this conversation will go, I miss out on better solutions.
- When I am worried about putting on the right face, I inadvertently come across as inauthentic.
- Because I am so obsessed with thinking that I am going to have to fix the problem myself, not the person I am talking to, I come across as an asshole.
Now let’s turn to the other side and explore what happens. When on my way to chat with Bobby, I choose the “I-got-this” frame of mind. I like to point out the benefits of all of the space I can create just by eliminating fear and anxiety. This new space can now be used to discover possibilities and solutions, like the following.
- I am curious about what Bobby encountered that made things go so wrong.
- I am now curious to see what methods we will use to fix the problem.
- I am now open to hearing the situation from Bobby point of view, because there may be bigger issue at hand, after all, it isn’t the first time this has happened.
- Now I am offering Bobby the appropriate support not only solve the problem, but to feel like a valuable member of the team. This could also strengthen our relationship in the long run. On top of that, I may not need to step in and just fix it myself.
There are countless, positive, benefits in trusting yourself. Benefits for you, like building your own confidence, shedding some of the stress that conflict brings, and being able to stretch your brain to think creatively. There are also side effect benefits to your team, like having a trusted team member, improving processes, and having more tools that were created from previous creative problem solving.
You can’t avoid conflict in the workplace. You just have to aim to handle it skillfully. The fastest way to get there is, not dread it, but to simply go in with trust in your abilities. With confidence in your problem solving you will be open to possibilities and with more possibilities, comes more solutions.