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Solving Problems with a Co-worker: Take the Lead

Don't let differences escalate. Set aside time to discuss the situation with your co-worker before small issues and concerns become a full-blown dispute. At the first sign of conflict,
  • Identify for yourself what disturbs you about the situation.

  • Ask to speak with your co-worker when you have gathered your thoughts, or schedule a time at the earliest possible opportunity. (Suggest a private meeting place, such as an unused office. In some instances, greater privacy is needed. If so, suggest a nearby location away from the office after you've secured permission to be away from the office for this purpose.)

  • Before the planned conversation, remind yourself to not form assumptions.

  • Keep talk with others regarding the problem to a minimum. Consult with a co-worker or friend ONLY if you think you need ideas on how to best express yourself, not to complain. (Complaining usually delays resolution of the conflict and adds to tension in the office. The best approach is to avoid involving others and keep details to yourself.)

  • When communicating your feelings to the person with whom you are in conflict, be honest, direct and specific. You may find it helpful to use this model:

    Describe     (objectively, the situation at hand)
    Express     (your feelings, use "I message")
    Specify     (what you want the other person to do)
    Consequences     (your realistic prediction of the outcome — benefits for the other person doing as you ask and negative consequences for the other person not doing as you ask. This is not a threat or a promise, but simply a prediction.)

    Think: D    E    S    C

  • Honor confidentiality by not discussing the situation and outcome with others.

  • Congratulate yourself privately for taking responsibility for dealing with a difficult situation rather than avoiding the problem and letting it build into a larger dispute.

  • Promise yourself that, in the future when a problem arises, you'll repeat this.
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