5 Ways to Avoid Losing Your Cool with a Coworker
Are you feeling the crunch of conflict at work? For sinful people living in a fallen world, some conflict is simply an inevitable reality. But despite the many dramatic movies that suggest otherwise, most workplace conflict is pretty mundane. Simple miscommunications, competing interests, personal entanglements, and other small matters lead to hurt feelings, tension, and discord.
Whether you work for a corporation or a church, and no matter how good you are or try to be, you will find yourself entangled in workplace conflict at some point in your career . . . and that's not necessarily a bad thing. There is such a thing as healthy conflict. In fact, a lot of very good organizational change can come about through conflict, even the messy kind.
Losing my cool
I tend to be pretty calm and easy-going with people, so I remember vividly each of the few times that I really lost my cool at work. One time in particular stands out in my mind. I was heading up the operations side of the business and my "adversary" was in charge of sales. Basically, he was in charge of bringing in new clients while I was in charge of seeing to it that their needs were met. We both worked for the same company, but we had different goals and different gifts. To make matters worse, we were not communicating well with each other. I felt like he was over-promising to new clients in order to secure their business, but without consulting with me about what we could actually deliver. It was incredibly frustrating to feel like my team had been put in a position to fail.
I let my frustration build and build, until one day I just lost it. I was seething when I confronted him. I raised my voice in a way I'm not proud of. I nearly cried. It did not feel good. I certainly don't recommend that approach, but in some ways it actually did help to break the ice and expose a real problem. From there, we were able to work toward a solution. We instituted a new "pricing committee" that could oversee the details of the deals being offered by the sales team. The process enabled us to work from our strengths, with the pricing committee serving as a middle ground.
I've since moved on from that job, but as far as I know, the pricing committee process is still in place, and the organization as a whole is better for it. We wouldn't have improved our business without working through that conflict.
Diane Paddison is a business professional and founder of 4wordwomen.org, local groups of professional working women committed to faith, family, work, and each other.