workplace battles

“I can’t believe he said that to me!”

Have you been there? Your blood is boiling and you’re gearing up to let loose a string of language that is definitely NSFW.

Being pushed to your limits is bad enough in regular life, but when it happens in the workplace, the way you react is crucial.

The only way to win a workplace battle is not to get into one.

No matter how mad you feel, no matter who did what or said what, going to war in the workplace is a losing strategy.

Byron Katie says defense is the first act of war. And I can vouch for this firsthand.

I have a few personal stories about rocky relationships on the job. Most of them were not proud moments. Being defensive in workplace conversations or situations is the worst behavior to demonstrate.

Once, an executive put a meeting on my calendar and came to my office to tell me that I was not doing a good job on a particular project — that I was not working fast enough, and my team wasn’t meeting its responsibilities. Without asking him why he was saying this to me, I filled up with anger and blasted him.

Game over! I ended up looking really unprofessional. My reaction did nothing to convince this executive that I was on top of the project he was complaining about.

Whenever you resort to defensive or negative behavior, you end up losing. Even if you’re reacting to someone else’s negativity.

So what can you do instead?

Here’s a three-step plan you can use when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation with a coworker:

  1. First, try just listening. If you find you’re really charged, try excusing yourself for a minute to process what was said and calm down.
  2. Then, use clear communication. Don’t assume you know what the other person is saying or means. Ask questions and get clarification. So many times we don’t realize when we’re misinterpreting what another person says. We misconstrue something and thoughts start spinning, creating stories in our heads. Before we know it, the situation has escalated.
  3. Last, try asking yourself what new thought you want to have about your co-worker.

That last step is a big one. One way to find a new thought is to ask how you want to feel when working with this person.

Let’s say you want to feel respected. What thought in your mind would symbolize mutual respect

Maybe one thought would be that you don’t want to see your co-worker fail, and that person doesn’t want you to fail either.

Now, how would you act when working if you had this thought in mind and felt there was mutual respect between the two of you? You would probably be less defensive and more curious to understand where your co-worker was coming from.

Now, is that really what your coworker is thinking? Here’s the secret: It doesn’t matter!

You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your co-workers. 

That means the only thing you have control over is how you react. And if you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel, which means you can take control of the way you act.

Need some support with reacting to a difficult coworker? Let’s talk about a new strategy.

[click here for a free mini-session]