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How to squash workplace wars

  • Story Highlights
  • If remaining silent about workplace problems causes stress -- speak up
  • Problems with coworkers can be resolved by setting up meeting
  • If problems with client arise, make sure it's worth it bringing problem up
  • Talk about problems with your boss in terms of your productivity level
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BY Anthony Balderrama
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For many people, the workweek is longer than the fabled 40 hours. Working lunches and late nights can keep you at the office for the bulk of your waking hours.


Is it any wonder there's some workplace friction once in a while?

Like childhood siblings who can't help but get on each other's nerves, officemates can push your hot buttons without even trying. The problem is, nobody's there to put you in separate rooms until you cool down. A conflict can escalate from a difference of opinion to a full-fledged battle.

Sometimes no matter how willing you are to ignore the problem, you're just can't. If your mental health depends on overcoming a workplace war, it's time to deal with it.

The other party: A co-worker

The war: Disagreements with colleagues are anything but rare. For one thing, you probably spend more time interacting with colleagues than with anybody else. Human nature suggests you'll get irritated with each other at one time or another. Factor in perceived competition for promotions and your boss' attention, and you have the recipe for a co-worker conflict.

The solution: "First, take a moment to plan out your course of action. You want to take emotion out of the equation and make sure you are being proactive instead of reactive," says Carly Drum, a workplace etiquette expert with New York-based executive search firm Drum Associates.

Set up a meeting and have an agenda ready so you can ensure you stay constructive and on task. The goal of the meeting should be to "discuss how to work more effectively as a team and to discuss issues that might be posing obstacles."

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The other party: Your boss

The war: Well, you're fighting with your boss and that's never good. A lot of issues factor into it, whether it's just a difference of opinions or office politics. Even if you don't deal with your boss one-on-one every day, he or she influences your daily tasks and your future at the company. It's a tightrope walk deciding how to stand up for yourself without having to immediately pack your things and be escorted out by security.

The solution: A good boss will engage you in a dialogue about any concerns you have if you approach him or her in the right way. Arrange a meeting to talk about what's troubling you, Drum suggests. "No one likes to be blindsided, especially your supervisor." Focus on how your concerns affect productivity and the environment at work. "Your main goal should be to improve processes or issues within the company. Just make sure that you do not become a 'squeaky wheel.'"

The other party: A C-level executive

The war: C-level executives, such as CEOs and CFOs, have a lot of power. With that power often comes stronger personalities that can be demanding or abrasive. In fairness, they also have more responsibility and time constraints; sometimes you're unfortunately on the receiving end of frustration they can't vent during meetings or negotiations.

The solution: Assess the situation carefully. You want to be certain you don't step on anyone's toes as you try to solve the problem. "Proper business protocol is to go to your direct boss first with a work problem," Drum says.

If the C-level problem is your boss, however, then contacting human resources is the safer course of action. Use your judgment to know whether the other person is going to be receptive to a one-on-one meeting or if you should go directly to HR. Your goal should be to open a dialogue about the issue in the most diplomatic way possible.

The other party: A client

The war: If you deal with clients and vendors every day, you're bound to get irked by something they do. Perhaps they're high maintenance or they're too stubborn to listen to you - whatever the case may be, you have to deal with them.

The solution: As tricky as it is to approach a boss about a concern, it can be even more difficult to bring up the subject with the clients who are giving you business. In fact, you should make sure it's something you can't ignore before you decide to have a conversation with them.

"If discussing the problem is something that that will enhance the work product or relationship, then the conversation should happen sooner rather than later," Drum says. "If the issue is simply about a passing clash of personality rather than a substantive work matter, apply common sense as to whether the disagreement even warrants discussion."

Regardless of whom you're not getting along with, remember that you decide what your limit is. If remaining silent adds to your stress level instead of alleviating it, then you should speak up. If you're in an environment where nothing changes or your concerns aren't addressed, think about whether or not it's a good place for you. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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