How to Confront Someone Professionally
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How to Confront Someone Professionally

A discussion of how to approach or confront someone who has wronged you in the workplace without it backfiring.

Anyone who has been in the real world work force knows how complicated office politics can be. Unfortunately, in this bad economy that doesn’t seem to be improving (despite what Mr. President says) it is challenging and scary to confront someone in the workplace. No one wants to lose their job or be labeled a whiner. However, you can confront someone without fear of retaliation.

Don’t do it alone. If the person you need to confront is someone of a sketchy influence, having a mediator might be a wise choice. Let’s face it – people will do almost anything to protect themselves; even lie. If a third party is right there, then that takes out the he said-she said element that often occurs. The third party should be someone in charge, and therefore obligated to not start any gossip later on.

Take responsibility for your part. No one is perfect and most disagreements in the work place start over something that could be completely insignificant at the time. However, people hold grudges and will use anything to gain ammunition against you over time. You could say “I see how my words/actions may have been interpreted in the manner you have perceived them. I apologize for the misunderstanding. Here is what I meant to say/do.” Being able to step into someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective is a valued skill. It is also a rare one. Don’t expect the other person to take accountability even though you did. This can be very frustrating.

Go to the meeting with a solution to the problem. Tell the other party “even though this break down in professionalism has occurred, I have some ideas about how we can get things back on track so we can focus on promoting our company and work as a team again.” Many companies offer classes in team building or workshops designed to enhance communication. Recommend to both your mediator and the other colleague that you both take the class together. Yes, this may seem neurotic and a waste of time but it will let your boss know you are putting the needs of the company above your pride.

Do not try to win the battle. Chances are even if you are clearly right, people have a hard time letting go of their egos. Most likely, the other person will never admit to any wrong doing. However, the fact that you handled the situation professionally and with accountability will look very good to your employer. If you feel that you and the other person are just going back and forth, the best thing to do is end it before things get childish. Tell them “well, my goal today was to bring t his problem to your attention. Again, here are some of my ideas about turning things around. Do any of these work for you or do you have any solutions I haven’t thought of?” be prepared for them to refuse it completely. If they accept your solution or you agree to one of theirs, focus solely on that. Don’t continue to bring up past actions.

Get feedback on the meeting. When the other party leaves, ask the mediator for feedback. Were you professional and accountable? Ask for ways to improve. When you go back to work, treat the other person kindly and with respect. It will show them, your peers and your boss that you are making strides to move on and are not going to let it affect your performance.

The most important element to remember is that you can do everything listed here and still have no impact on the other party. They might try to retaliate but do not fall into the traps they set. Do not discuss the event with your other coworkers and do not treat them with any disrespect, even if they do not return that courtesy. If you pretend like it’s no big deal and it doesn’t affect you, it will be blown off quickly. Good office gossip is based off of sensational drama. So, if you’re not giving them anything to talk about, then they won’t.

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Comments (5)

These tips will come in handy for sure. We all have colleagues we want to confront, at some point in time or another.

good article

Well articulated with wisdom.Voted up

A must read! Found your article useful and informative. Thanks much Voted up!

Very wise advice indeed.  I'm passing this one on to my Facebook friends and giving you a much deserved recommendation.