Wake-up Call: Handling peers who can’t stick to a plan
Think before you speak: knee-jerk reactions often do more harm than good
Before hitting send or saying something you might regret, consider whether this is a battle worth having
It can be exhausting to work with a colleague whose story keeps changing.
Just when we think we have resolution or agreement, we hear that our colleague has changed directions or is reconsidering an issue that we thought was resolved.
So how should you respond?
Pick your battles: Before hitting send or saying something you might regret, consider whether this is a battle worth having.
Knee-jerk reactions often do more harm than good in the long run.
Assess the situation objectively: is this a recurring pattern? What is the impact to the business, the team and you?
What are the risks in not having a conversation?
Share your observations and seek to understand: When approaching a difficult conversation, start by giving your colleague the benefit of the doubt. Most people are not intentional liars and want to be successful at what they do.
Resist opening with a comment that judges or labels – a sure way to make the other person defensive. Avoid phrases such as “It lacks such integrity …” and “I am so frustrated by …” Instead, start with your observations and a question. Suggest remedies: With a more open dialogue and understanding of the assumptions, propose possible solutions. It also helps to acknowledge your colleague’s point of view.
Create new ways to engage: After the conversation, take note of what have you’ve learned about yourself and your colleague, and how to be most effective in working with him.
To navigate your style differences in the future, agree to use questions and requests.
For example, you might ask: “What is the decision-making process on this, and where are you in that?” or “What conflicts are you experiencing in getting to clarity?”
If you’re the person who tends to change his tune, you may want to say to your colleagues: “Could you be a sounding board? I need to hear myself talk out loud”, “I need a night to sleep on this and then I’ll get back to you” or “How can I minimise the impact on you and your team as we see where the chips fall?”
By doing what’s best for the business, seeking to understand and laying out clearer rules of engagement, we can better build and sustain relationships with coworkers. And, as we earn mutual trust, we can cut to the chase and find out the truth of what someone’s thinking with more openness and compassion.
– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016
Amy Jen Su is a cofounder and managing partner of Paravis Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm.
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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