How to deal with workplace conflicts - Develop your personality and business skills.
How to Deal with Problems at Work
Work problems can cause a lot of stress in your life, and are important to resolve since so much of your time is spent in the workplace. Some of the most common work problems are issues with your job itself--too much work, for example, or feeling ill-equipped to perform the tasks---and managing day-to-day stress at work. Other common problems deal with getting along with coworkers and communication issues. Remember that in all cases, it is helpful to be clear and professional with your coworkers. Whether you are discussing a poor performance review with your supervisor or an etiquette issue with your coworker, directly stating the problem in a friendly, professional manner is a great start toward solving it.
Getting Along with Your Coworkers
Be polite and direct.Don’t beat around the bush when you have a problem with your coworker. It is usually easier to address the problem as soon as it comes up, rather than stew over it or get someone else involved.
- Be informal about it the first time you address the person. You could say, “Hey, Jack, I’ve been noticing that you’ve been returning the truck almost on empty lately. Could you remember to bring it back with a full tank next time?”
- If the behavior continues after you have informally addressed your concern, you may need to ask your supervisor to intervene. Follow your company’s rules on handling employee conflict resolution.
Use “I” language.It is important to listen to your coworkers needs respectfully and to try to see their point of view. It is also important to express yourself in a respectful manner. When discussing issues with a coworker, make sure you don’t make them feel defensive when you speak to them. You can do this by using “I” statements. The other person hears your reactions to the situation, not your accusations.
- Instead of saying, “We are always waiting on you to get your portion of the work done,” you could use “I” language and say, “When the work isn’t in on time, I get really stressed out. I end up needing to work later to get caught up. So it’s really helpful to me if everyone can get the project back on the agreed-upon day.”
- You could say, “While I appreciate feedback, your comment on my work the other day felt very personal and upset me.”
Communicate your needs to your boss.You may or may not get along well with your supervisor, but keep the lines of communication open between the two of you as best you can. Remember that it is part of your boss’ responsibility to ensure that you are in an environment that enables you to get your work done, so do not feel like you need to keep concerns from them.
- Remember that you and your boss do not need to be friends, you just need to be able to work together. (This goes for all of your coworkers, too.) It’s okay to maintain a professional distance from the person if you don’t really care for them.
- If you are having a difficult time communicating and getting along with your boss, you may wish to bring your concerns to your HR department or, if you don’t have an HR department, talk to your boss’ supervisor. You could say, “Ms. Jones, I’m coming to you because I’ve been having some problems working with Mr. Roberts lately. I’m hoping you can help me figure out what to do.”
- If your boss doesn’t have a boss (for example, they run a small business), and you are having a difficult time working with them, it may be best you begin looking for another job.
Keep records of any ongoing problems you may have with a coworker.If you are dealing with a coworker bullying or harassing you, be sure you are keeping track of all incidents with that person. Record the date, time, what happened, and if there were any witnesses.
- Be sure to find out what your employer’s protocol is in dealing with coworker conflict, bullying, and/or harassment. Your employee handbook or human resources representative would be a good source of information.
- Research laws protecting your rights when you are being bullied or harassed by a coworker.
Find a support network at work.You spend a lot of time with the same group of people at work; why not get to know some of them better? Try to make some good connections with others, and develop a network of friends who can help you through your work (and life) frustrations.
- Spend your lunch break with your coworkers and get to know them better away from work.
- Spend a few minutes chatting with your coworkers each day.
- Invite them to get together after work. You could say, “Would you like to grab dinner after work tomorrow?” This can be a good way to get to know your colleagues better. If you feel comfortable doing so, then you might even invite them to happy hour with you to grab a drink after work.
Look at conflict as an opportunity.If you and a coworker are disagreeing on how a project needs to proceed, refuse to take the disagreement personally. Instead, look at the conflict as an opportunity to learn from the other person.
- You could say, “Kristin, I have to admit that I don’t understand your approach. Could you tell me more about why you want to go in this direction?”
- Avoid getting personal when giving feedback to a colleague. For example, it would be better to say, “I think we need more detail in this section,” rather than “If you hadn’t waited until the last minute to get this in, you could have given us more information.”
Addressing Concerns with Your Position
Be clear on your job expectations.Sometimes the job you have is different from the job you applied for. If you are finding yourself taking on additional responsibility, or are doing tasks you do not feel qualified for, bring your concerns to your supervisor promptly.
- Find a copy of the job description you received when you applied or were hired for the position. Make a list of all the responsibilities you currently manage. Show them to your boss and say, “Here is a copy of my job description, and here is all the work I am currently doing. I think we need to talk about the expectations for my position.”
- You could use your additional responsibilities as leverage for a pay raise. You could say, “I think if you expect me to continue to do these additional responsibilities, it may be wise to talk about an increased salary.”
Look for additional training opportunities.If you feel your job performance would improve with additional training or classes, be proactive in seeking out training you feel would be beneficial. Look for training within your company or in your community (perhaps in a community college or a university extension class), and bring the opportunity to your supervisor’s attention.
- You could say, “I found this coding workshop that’s going on at the local college next month. I think this is exactly the kind of course I need to help take my performance to the next level and help me gain greater understanding of my position. Would the company be able to sponsor me to attend this workshop? Here is the information on it.”
- You could consider seeking out a mentor within your company to help you better understand your role.
Be open to feedback from your boss.Sometimes work problems can develop when you get little or no feedback on your performance. Take the initiative and ask your boss if they’d be willing to have a conversation with you on how you are doing in your position.
- Set a time for you and your boss to talk. Give them a sense of what you want to talk about. For example, you could say, “I was curious to know how you felt about my performance over the last few months. I think I’ve been taking on more responsibilities, and I wanted to get some feedback on what I’ve done well and what needs improvement.”
- Don’t beat yourself up over a bad performance review. Look at it as a learning opportunity, asking lots of questions so you can best understand how you can make changes. You could say, “I appreciate you bringing these concerns to my attention. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can do to improve my next review?”
Read your employee handbook.Know your company’s rules and regulations. Know the protocol for addressing a problem in your organization. You may be required to address all problems with your supervisor, or you may need to head to HR for all of your dealings.
- Your company may have a chain of command that you are expected to follow in addressing a problem. Make sure you follow the expectations exactly; doing so will make it easier for others to do their jobs as well.
- When you meet with someone to address your concerns, bring your copy of the employee handbook with you to reference. You could say, “Mr. Kendall, I know I don’t usually meet with you, but per the employee handbook, if I am having a problem with my supervisor, I’m supposed to go to their supervisor. So that’s why I wanted to talk to you today.”
Discover how to file a complaint/grievance with your company.If you feel you are being treated unfairly and your problem has not been solved or even addressed, you can take steps to have the problem identified through a more formal procedure. If complaint procedures are not spelled out in your employee handbook, find out through management or HR what steps you need to take.
- You could say, “John, I’ve taken all of the steps in the employee handbook to follow the chain of command at work, but my concerns are still not being addressed. I want to find out how to file a formal complaint within the company.”
- If you feel you are being harassed or discriminated against, for example, it may be beneficial to you to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (if you live in the United States). Find out more at .
Get union support.If you are represented by a union, know how the union will help you in dealing with any work-related problems. Read a copy of the agreement between your union and your employer, as well as any union materials you may have to find out more information.
- You may wish to speak to the union representative at your employer and inform them of your situation. You could say, “I’ve been having some problems at work lately, and was wondering if you could let me know if the union will be able to help me in any way.” Explain your situation and ask for support.
Make sure you have good work habits.You may be stressed due to a poor ability to stay organized, stay on task, or prioritize assignments. Examine your work habits and find ways to improve before complaining about your workload to your supervisor.
- If you work on a computer, avoid getting distracted by the internet. You can put extensions on your internet browsers that will limit your access to distracting websites to a predetermined amount of time.
- Make sure you are prioritizing tasks in order of importance. If you are not sure what should be done first, ask your supervisor. You could say, “Right now I’m working on this project. Should I finish it or start this new assignment?”
- Delegate responsibility if you are able. If you supervise employees, for example, ask them to help you with parts of the project.
Manage your workload.Feeling overwhelmed with work can be a major source of workplace stress. Know your limits and try not to take on more work than you can handle.You may even feel stressed if you feel like your skills are not equivalent to your responsibilities. In this case, seeking additional training may be a good way to make your workload more manageable. Discuss any concerns with your supervisor.
- Alert your supervisor if you’ve been given too much work. Let them know you are feeling overwhelmed and ask for suggestions as to how you can prioritize. Are there any projects that can go on the back burner for the time being?
- You could say, “Mike, I appreciate being a valued member of the team, but I am drowning in all this work right now. I’m working late and not seeing my kids. What can we do to make this workload easier to manage?”
- You may need to lower your standards. If the quantity seems more valued than the quality at your workplace, consider spending less time with each assignment you are given.
- If you are unable to cope with demands of the work, it might be time to look for another job. Sometimes letting your supervisor know you are overwhelmed will not change anything. If that’s the case, you may want to dust off your resume.
Let your supervisor know if you’re dealing with a personal problem.If you find stress from your personal life creeping into your work life, be upfront with your supervisor without going into too many details. A good supervisor will likely appreciate know what is going on.
- Talk to your supervisor in private. Let your supervisor know what’s up, and what you will need to do to solve the problem. You could say, “I just wanted to let you know that I’ve got some issues I am dealing with at home. I am dealing with it, but there may be a few days when I need to come in late next week.”
- Keep in mind that, while you are not obligated to disclose health information, you may need to be a bit more forthcoming if you are dealing with ongoing health problems. For example, you might say, “I’ve been told by my doctor that I am going to need surgery. Therefore, there are going to be a few days next month I will be out. I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”
Eat well both at home and on the job.Avoid going out for fast food over lunch, and pack a healthy lunch instead. You’ll save money as well as improve your health. Putting healthy food in your body will help better regulate your moods and manage stress.
- Pack a salad in a jar filled with vegetables and protein to get a big serving of veggies and help you avoid the late-afternoon sugar cravings.
- Make healthy snack choices if you need a bite to eat. Consider almonds, cheese sticks, or vegetables with hummus.
- Avoid foods that send your blood sugar soaring and then crashing, like sugary treats and refined carbohydrates. You will feel even worse.
- Coffee and caffeinated beverages are a mainstay of the office, but too much can leave you feeling anxious and stressed. Limit your intake.
- Drink plenty of water during your workday.
Take exercise breaks.Take regular exercise breaks during the day in order to help de-stress. Not only is this good for your physical health, it is good for your mental health as well.
- If you work a sedentary/desk job, get up from your desk at regular intervals to walk around for a few minutes. It will help you refocus and feel more energized and productive.
- Take a walk during your lunch break, or if you can, get a quick workout in.
Get plenty of sleep.Make sure you are getting to bed at a reasonable hour. Sleep deprivation makes emotional regulation more difficult, causing increased irritability and stress.
- Aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
- Do something relaxing before bed. Avoid catching up on work email or anything stressful. Try reading for pleasure, taking a bath, or drinking chamomile tea.
- Avoid screens an hour before bedtime. The glow from the screen can stimulate wakefulness, making it harder to fall asleep.
QuestionHow do you resolve issues with your work?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerEvaluate how the work you do coincides with your personal values and long-term goals. Make the changes you can to achieve congruency or being looking for job that is more in line with your values and goals. Go through proper supervisory channels and utilize the human resource department.Thanks!
QuestionHow do you deal with a difficult person at work?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerFirst try diplomacy or mediation. If those methods do not work ask for reassignment or look for a new job.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the common problems at work?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerCommon problems in the workplace include personality conflicts with coworkers and superiors, competition, and ethical issues.Thanks!
Video: How to deal with difficulties at work
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