Addressing Conflict Head On – Can I skip that growth process?

I’ve always had an issue with addressing conflict face to face. In the heat of the moment, I’m afraid that I won’t be as eloquent as I want to be, that I won’t get my point across, that I’ll be interrupted, or get so frustrated that I end up crying even though it’s more anger tears than anything else. It was easier for me to write down how I was feeling. I remember writing letters like that to friends when I was younger. I’d get it all out, then they’d read it and then hopefully we could have a conversation, even if still an argument. I felt like I was “heard” in my letter and then what followed afterwards felt more manageable.

That method serves its purpose somewhat, but it’s not really ideal, and as an adult it’s harder to get away with it. Work is one of those places where this is particularly difficult for me, mainly because of the crying part. Tears aren’t professional, even if they are “I’m pissed off” tears.

In the past couple of days a situation arose at work that I can’t let slide and that emails won’t resolve. It’s a situation where even an email airing out my initial grievances is not going to take away from how pissed off I’m still going to be when we talk. It’s somebody that I already have trust issues with and quite frankly don’t like, but had accepted as one of those people that you have work with even if you’d never break bread with them.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m far from perfect…I have a temper and sometimes little patience if I’ve already explained something a couple of times. However, I do pride myself on being a genuine person, both personally and professionally. I am cordial even if I don’t like you, but I don’t go out of my way to gush about you or hug you if I don’t like you. It is not in my nature to be fake. This person that I am having the issue with is the fakest person I know. From the very beginning of our working relationship, he’s done very little to ever have a conversation whether in person, phone or email that had anything of substance. Instead of actually giving a direct answer on a question, it’s some vague response and then some comment about how I’m a superstar. It makes me gag every time. I just have very little trust in this person, but I accepted that we had to work together and always kept my guard up.

This week, however, he decided to basically dress down some of my hardest working employees in front of his team. This is something he never would have done if I had been in the room. As one of my team members, who never takes things personally, angrily told me what had happened, I grew more angry by the minute.

I went back to my hotel that night knowing that I’d have to talk to this colleague but trying to figure out the best approach. Email him first with some thoughts asking to meet about it later? Just approach him directly without any forewarning? It ended up going in another direction when I seized the opportunity of my company meeting presentation the next morning to at a minimum refute what he said the day before to the whole company. I did not reference him or use his name, but I basically advised the group about how things really work and should work – as a collaborative effort. This then ended in a barrage of emails from him (with our boss CC’ed) trying to explain himself and basically denying everything that I was told. We never got our face to face before I left the office.

So now I have a looming “appointment” on Monday to hash through the situation with him. At least it will be over the phone. I know that as part of my personal and professional growth, I need to approach situations like these head on. I need to take a deep breath and get out my points as eloquently as if I were writing it down. Wish me luck.

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