Any relationship can be tough to manage and keep afloat because it involves people with different biases from all walks of life, who have a worldview different from the next person. Many factors help make any type of relationship work. Talking about professional relationships, Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach says “As with any place full of interpersonal relationships, a workplace can be rife with a wide range of conflicts.” So conflicts are bound to arise when individual traits come to play. At times, they are not even work-related but still start from work. The most important factor of all when it comes to its resolution is Communication.
It is in your best interest not to act on what happened immediately or jump to any conclusions as this can deteriorate the matter on the ground. There’s always a possibility that you’re just viewing things wrong because as a human, it’s normal to infuse your biases and emotions into whatever situation you’re in. The first thing you need to do is clear your mind of grudges or whatever feelings you have towards it. Give yourself time to calm down, heal or feel stronger, depending on the situation. Try to be objective, in your thinking, put yourself in the position of your boss. In layman terms, put yourself in your boss’s shoes first.
Note Points of Strength and Weakness
Depending on what you’ve understood from the conflict, analyse the situation. Make notes of how you feel about it, what you like about it and what you would like to change. It’s quite possible that your superior doesn’t fully understand how much the issue affects you or your work and it might even be a recurring event that you feel should have been addressed earlier. For instance, if you’ve been working overtime and it’s been affecting your commitment to your family in terms of time you spend with them, you should be able to tell your superior. Also how it has affected you personally regarding time management and make suggestions on how to help the situation because you understand your problem better than anyone else.
The popular saying, “practice makes perfect” is true. You need to get it right. Your notes are your script. Get your trusted colleague, friend or spouse to act as your boss and try to see what his/her reactions would be. It would help to figure out the right approach; what to say and how to say it. Remember to take it as seriously as you would if you were right in front of your boss and encourage your partner to do same.
Have The Talk
Once you’ve thought about it and it doesn’t hurt or affect you emotionally as much as it did before, you know you’re ready to talk about it. Set up a meeting at the convenience of both you and your superior. Conflicts limit communication and therefore slow down progress. Without communication, information cannot be passed and work cannot be done effectively. Whatever the issue is, ranging from salary disparity, inability to function properly, promotions, lack of recognition for achievement, teammate clash or you simply don’t like the way your superior talks to you, you have to speak up. The absence of communication is a big barrier in the workplace and no one is going to assume you have certain problems and automatically resolve them for you.
Listening is twice as important as talking. Knowing what the other party’s opinions, reservations or perspectives are on the issues matter a lot because they guide you on what to think, say and do moving forward. You need to absorb the information from the other party’s view and communication can be better just by listening. You can study body language, pitch change and general demeanor which are key to conflict resolution. Importantly, don’t expect the meeting to go as planned because your boss has independent views. Also, conflict resolution is a gradual process so keep an open mind and be patient.
Develop a process to work on the conflict
Over the period of working with your superior, you should have realized the kind of person they are. Is he/she is the hands-on or hands-off type? For instance, how often your boss requires a report or update on your work or how they want the professional rapport to be. Following the talk you had with your boss and their feedback, you should map out a plan based on the points made during the conversation to prevent a recurrence of that conflict. Work out your schedule and work towards changing your work habits based on what has been said and suggested.
This is the cherry on top. It is not enough to plan. You must actually execute your plan otherwise the plan becomes very useless and nothing changes. The problem wouldn’t go away, the working relationship remains the same or could get worse, which doesn’t help productivity. Work towards your goal and gradually, you would achieve it.
If after all of these, nothing changes, you may need to seek outside help from someone probably equally as superior to you as your boss. Sometimes, third-party influence might be another option because the other boss might be able to appeal to the compassion or emotions of your superior. Remember to exercise patience.
“Having a supervisor that respects your technical talent, provides challenging opportunities, and is honest and trustworthy is a key motivating factor for IT people”, says Gwen Barker of Logenii, who consults for HR executives in many of the Fortune 500 IT organizations.
This isn’t restricted to Information technology alone but cuts across all industries. It is important to make yourself the person you want your boss to see you as. Your relationship with your boss is very important and can sometimes determine your career growth.