Break free of office war

Q. One of my coworkers is the most oppositional, stubborn and argumentative people I have ever met. If I say black, he says white. I spend half my day arguing with him and the other half trying to point out why he doesn't have his facts right. How do I get free of this conflict?

A. You can stop the war by realizing it really does take two to tango -- or to have an office war. You will never get any peace at your office if you keep jumping in with your coworker to have a power struggle.

Here are the magic words when you're dealing with an argumentative individual on the job, "You may be right." People who are stubborn and adore power struggles simply don't know how to respond if you concede that they may have a point.

You'll discover the hardest part for you will be to stop trying to get your coworker to see things your way. Ironically, the people we fight the most with at our office are the people who have the same weaknesses as ourselves. You'll only get peace if you are willing to stop your battle to prove your point.

The reason these office power struggles are so seductive and emotionally juicy is that many of us confuse being right with being competent or good people. We go to war not over any particular fact but over the emotional fear that, if we can't win the battle to be right, we've been publicly humiliated.

The truth is that effective and powerful people realize that winning the war to be right is merely the consolation price in our career. The real prize is looking into the future to see what result we need and going after that goal. If other people get to be right in the short term and you get the outcomes you need in the long run, who do you think is the real winner?

In order to get the peace you desire, realize you'll find it tempting to jump back into the war next time you see your coworker. Forgive yourself if you start down your usual path of arguing back. Then take a deep breath, let him know he may have a point, and get back to focusing on your own productivity.

Your opponent will be temporarily surprised, throw a few more punches your way, and then amble along and find someone less wise to resume his workplaces battles.

The last word(s)

Q. I envy people who are retired. Financially, I simply can't afford to stop working. Is there any way to be able to stop working sooner?

A. Yes, work at moving your career in the direction of things you actually enjoy doing. Then you'll be able to make money and enjoy your "hobby."

(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.)

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