When it's time to confront a co-worker


September 01, 1991|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

You've ignored her, reasoned with her, made excuses for her, looked the other way, let her have her own way. Still, this co-worker promises and doesn't deliver and makes mistakes that damage not only her reputation, but yours, as well.

You can't (won't!) risk your own career any longer to cover her you-know-what. You're going to have to confront her, instead, and insist that she change her ways.

Here are 12 steps you can take to dramatically increase your chances of winning this confrontation:

* Stop thinking in terms of winning or losing. Think about communicating with this person in a clear, fair, effective way, instead.

* Figure out ahead of time exactly what you want from this person.

(Not: "I want her to get organized!" but: "I want her to complete her part of our projects three days before they're due so I'll have time to complete my part.")

* If you want this person to stop doing something, on the other hand, figure out what you want her to do instead.

(Not just: "I want her to stop losing my telephone messages!" but: "And I want her to write them down in a permanent notebook. This way, I can check for messages at regular intervals and have a written record of phone calls, too.")

* Make sure that you aren't putting someone else's face on this person. If you seem to be more upset than is warranted by her actual behavior, ask yourself if she reminds you of someone in your personal life .

If she does, it's crucial that you separate your personal and professional issues before you meet her.

* Schedule a private meeting. A confrontation that takes place in the hallway or the cafeteria, or as you walk past her desk, isn't a confrontation; it's an ambush.

* Keep your opening statement brief -- no more than five or six sentences -- then give her a chance to talk.

* Use "I," not "you," messages. ("I find it hard to do my job when I don't get my telephone messages," not: "You keep losing my telephone messages!")

* Listen to what she says. Don't interrupt. Don't shake your head. Don't argue. Don't discount her point of view.

* End the meeting quickly if tempers start to rise. Ask for time to think, ask her to do the same, then reschedule the meeting.

* Never talk about how she is (lazy, disorganized, messy, inefficient, a twit), but only about what she does. And when you do talk about her behavior, be specific, accurate and able to document everything you say.

* Keep your body language non-threatening. Keep your hands relaxed. Maintain a distance of at least four feet between you to avoid invading her "space." And if you're both seated, make sure your chairs are of equal height.

* Finally, monitor your tone of voice.

Yours should be calm, polite, adult and matter-of-fact -- just like .. you.

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