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Eight Steps for Workplace Confrontations

    Eight Steps for Workplace Confrontations

    By Cheri Baker of Emergence Consulting

    One of the challenging things about working in a team environment is that there are times when people behave in ways that we find unproductive, offensive, or hurtful. When we ignore these feelings, the relationship can suffer as our resentment festers. Yet fear at confronting others can prevent us from taking positive action. Today's post contains a checklist you can use to determine if a confrontation is appropriate, and if so, how to move forward.

    Step One: Ask yourself if the "problem" is a pattern or simply a one-time issue. Sometimes we see the people around us behaving poorly in a repetitive way. Sometimes the behavior is a surprise. If the situation you wish to confront someone on is a one-time thing, not a pattern, ask yourself if a confrontation can be avoided. We all have bad days. Do not make a mountain out of a molehill.

    Step Two: If you have determined you want to move ahead, ask yourself what your reasoning is. Are you confronting the person because your feelings are hurt, because you are concerned about them or because you are concerned about the customer? Chances are you may have multiple motivations. Do take the time to get crystal clear about your own motives. Sometimes we "say" that we are confronting someone because we are worried about the project, or the customer, but it is really about our own feelings. Step up and take ownership of your motives.

    Step Three: Take a good look at your own assumptions about WHY the person acted the way they did. You may assume that the person behaved out of line because they were lazy, or didn't pay attention, or were not careful enough. You may assume they were just clueless. Whatever you assume, just take that judgment and set it to one side. Your assumptions and judgments are not going to do anyone any good. Suspend them. Be prepared to enter the confrontation without assuming you knew the person's intentions or motives. Be prepared to offer the benefit of the doubt - at first.

    Step Four: Determine if the confrontation is something you can do solo, or if you need the support of a manager or a trusted advisor. If you are afraid you're going to flub it - talk it through with another person first. Make sure that the person you are "talking it through" with is not the person's peer or subordinate.

    Step Five: Figure out what your goal is for the confrontation. Do you want them to change their behavior? Fix a problem? Offer a solution? Be clear about what you want. Wanting "to be told that I am right and they are wrong" is not a valid reason to confront someone.

    Step Six: Script it out. Before you have the conversation, make a few notes about what words you plan to use. I recommend the following format.

    NAME, I have something I want to talk to you about.

    1) This is what I observed.

    2) This is how it made me feel.

    3) This is the outcome I would like.

    4) What do you think?

    For example: A coworker who has been not taking on a fair share of the work in a team.

    "Janet, I have something I want to talk to you about. I've noticed that over the last few weeks that I've been processing thirty accounts per day and you've been processing about ten. I'm feeling a little stressed and overworked and I am hoping that we can find a way to balance the workloads more evenly. Do you have any suggestions?"

    Notice, this is a lot better than a typical approach:

    "Janet, I'm tired of pulling all the weight around here. If you're not going to do your fair share then I'm just going to talk to our boss."

    or even avoiding the issue like this:

    "Mark, I am so mad at Janet. She never does her share of the work. She's always on the phone, and our boss doesn't do anything about it! Janet is such a slacker?

    Step Seven: Plan your timing. Once you have scripted out your talk, find an appropriate time and place to talk to the person. A private location during a non-busy time is a good rule of thumb. Don't ambush someone in the middle of a project deadline or begin the conversation in public.

    Step Eight: Approach the issue as a "problem we can solve together." By treating the confrontation as a request for help, you are not jumping to conclusions, putting people on the defensive, or causing harm to the relationship. Even when you suspect that the problem is due to laziness or bad performance, suspending those inferences can help you move towards resolution.

    Eight tips for a successful confrontation. At first this may seem like a lot of work, but ultimately this is about preparing you to be your best.  A little bit of effort up front can spare a lot of heartache later!

    Reprinted with permission from the Enlightened Manager Blog



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