By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q: I've been in a long-term conflict with a co-worker. We've both been promoted to the management team of my company. At every meeting, this guy starts a fight, insulting me or undermining my authority. How do I get him to stop?
A: Be boring. Right now, you're making it really interesting to fight with you. Your colleague fires and you fire back. It takes two to keep a power struggle going.
I realize some people just like to fight. You can't control whether this guy keeps fighting. You can control whether it is with you.
Work to reduce your reactivity to his power plays. Defending yourself in meetings, arguing and counterattacks all keep the conflict alive. Consider a dead mouse. After a while, even the most aggressive cat gets bored and looks for more interesting prey.
Every time this colleague comes after you, use the most boring response you can muster. Also keep in mind that nothing becomes more tedious than two people who waste everyone else's meeting time trying to prove who is more stupid.
If your office adversary wants to keep fighting and you stop, his clearly unwarranted aggression toward you will make him look foolish. If you keep contributing to the battle, his behavior is clouded by your reactions.
Obviously, if this guy is making it impossible for you to do your job, conflict management by being boring is not the whole solution. If you've calmly requested critical actions from him and he refuses to deliver, seek counsel from your boss. When talking to your boss, say something like, "Jim's supplies are blocking access to the copy machine. I've asked him to remove them without success. Do you want us to use a different copy machine, or can you recommend another way to solve this problem?"
You'll find many people during your career will invite you to a power struggle. Don't RSVP. In the short run, you'll have to give up being right to be boring. In the long run, you'll get what you want.
The last word(s)
Q: I'm sick of people whining about each other at work. Why can't people just do their job and leave the personal stuff at home?
A: Because it's very hard to separate employees' heads from their hearts without early and permanent retirement.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
(c) 2010 INTERPERSONAL EDGE
April 10, 2011 - April 23, 2011 Edition