Coworker from Hell: Disagreeing without creating conflict

 

Disagreements and differences of opinion are an inevitable, and quite healthy, part of any workplace. It is inevitable because every workplace is comprised of individuals, each with their own unique perspectives on the world. Healthy, because it is through the sharing of new and different ideas that we learn and grow. Unfortunately, differing opinions in the workplace all too often lead to unnecessary conflict. Like so many things, what creates the conflict has less to do with the idea, and more to do with the way in which it is presented. Here are two useful techniques for minimizing the potential for conflict when disagreeing or offering a different opinion:

I think in this case…

This technique involves first validating the premise behind the other person’s assertion, then offering a new or different perspective that leads to a different conclusion. For example:

Sally: I think we need to have a full team meeting for an hour every Monday and Wednesday morning

Bob: (validating) That makes sense. The more frequently we communicate, the less likely we’ll have issues like the ones that cropped up in the last project. (New perspective) I think in this case we have a challenge with availability. Not everyone is in the office every Monday

and Wednesday. Perhaps we should just say we’ll meet twice a week, and on the Friday before set mutually convenient meeting times.

Yes, and…

Undoubtedly the most common way for people to express differences of opinion is with the ubiquitous “Yabut” (“Yes, but”). “Yabut, we don’t have the manpower,” “Yabut, we don’t have the time”, “Yabut we tried that once before”, etc. Yabut is a universal trigger for conflict, because it sends the message that you are discounting everything the other person says. Try changing Yabut to “Yes and…” and see the difference in how people respond to you. This acknowledges the other person’s position and then augments it. So, for example, instead of saying “Yabut we don’t have the manpower”, you could say, “Yes, and we’ll have to increase our staffing levels to accomplish this.”

Both techniques let the other people know that you respect them and their ideas; and that is the key to working together

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