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Managing workplace confrontations
Confrontation in the workplace can be tricky—you don't want to burn bridges, but you also don't want to suffer at the hands of a colleague.
Confrontation in the workplace can be tricky—you don't want to burn bridges, but you also don't want to suffer at the hands of a colleague. So how do you effectively communicate the need for change without stirring up conflict? Barbara Pachter's book The Power of Positive Confrontation: The Skills You Need to Know to Handle Conflicts at Work, at Home, and in Life (Marlowe & Co., 2001), recommends taking these six steps to confront others in a way that's both dignified and effective:
1. Pick your battles. Not all things are worth a fight, and even if they were, you couldn't possibly fight all those battles. Fight about the things that matter most to you, and let the rest go.
2. Assume the person has positive intentions. In reality, people don't generally do things out of spite; they just don't see the repercussions of their actions. Ask yourself: Did this person really intend any harm? Is it the individual or a company policy? What's the other person's culture? The answer to these questions may help you understand the motivations behind the actions.
3. Choose the right time and place. Raise any confrontational issues in private, when you're calm and collected, and when all participants have ample time to focus on the problem.
4. Stick to one issue at a time. Don't confuse the issue—and your listeners—by veering off on tangents. Instead chose one topic, and stick to that topic.
5. Prepare and practice. You're less likely to explode or lose your nerve if you've practiced what you want to say. Be specific, direct, polite, and nonaccusatory.
6. Pay attention to your nonverbal body signals. Sometimes your body communicates a different message than your words; check your motions, stance, and other body language.