Resolving Conflict With Your Boss

Reviewed Apr 26, 2019

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Summary

  • Get emotions under control
  • Share your view of the problem
  • Identify mutually acceptable solutions

Erik had had it. When his boss, Angie, gave another co-worker a project Erik had wanted and worked for, he was angry and hurt. “I’ve worked so hard to show that I’m capable, but Angie won’t trust me with more responsibility," says Erik, who is nervous about confronting his boss.

Like Erik, most people fear confronting an employer. But dodging conflict often makes the situation worse. Using good conflict resolution skills, however, opens the lines of communication and results in clarified job expectations, a more pleasant work environment, better relations with your boss, and more potential for professional growth.

Try using these techniques to work through your on-the-job conflicts.

Get emotions under control

Allow yourself time to cool off before facing your boss. This helps establish a state of mind helpful to problem solving. Your efforts will fail if you have a “me versus my boss” attitude or if you predict results before talking out the issues.

Give consideration to the time and place of your discussion. Picking a neutral meeting place that is likely to be free of interruptions and distractions is best.

Address conflict and explore underlying issues and needs

How you communicate is the key to strong conflict resolution. Share your view of the problem, being careful not to accuse or blame. Focus on the issue, not the way you are feeling toward your boss. Take time to listen to your boss’s response, and try to see the situation from her view. Don’t interrupt. A respectful, rational conversation will help clarify the real issues.

Conflict can erupt over differing values, preferences, methods and goals, or a combination of factors. Often, conflict comes from unmet needs or expectations. And almost always, it is hard to untangle the issues involved without open and honest communication.

In this example, Angie wasn’t aware of Erik’s wish for more responsibility and control over his work. As a result, Erik viewed Angie as an overbearing micromanager who was always squelching his efforts to get ahead. When these feelings were brought to Angie’s attention, she assured Erik that giving the project to a co-worker was not a personal attack or a reflection of her opinion of Erik’s skills or quality of work.

Identify mutually acceptable solutions

After taking the time to clarify your position and feelings, define your expectations—what needs to happen to help your working conditions or your relationship with your boss? Don’t make demands. Instead, tell your boss that you want to find a solution that meets the needs of everyone involved. Bounce ideas off each other until you find a positive yet realistic solution.

Remember the positive potential of addressing conflict. Erik’s situation is a good example. Angie was happy to learn about Erik’s wish for more challenge and responsibility. “Turns out,” says Erik, “Angie has been snowed under with work, and she didn’t realize how out of touch she’s been with her staff. She also lost sight of the advantages of delegating. Now, she hosts a bi-monthly meeting for her staff to talk about current and impending work and to delegate projects at hand”—a solution that pleases everyone.

Resources

Resolving Conflicts at Work: Ten Strategies for Everyone on the Job by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith. Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Conflict Resolution Network

By Christine P. Martin

Summary

  • Get emotions under control
  • Share your view of the problem
  • Identify mutually acceptable solutions

Erik had had it. When his boss, Angie, gave another co-worker a project Erik had wanted and worked for, he was angry and hurt. “I’ve worked so hard to show that I’m capable, but Angie won’t trust me with more responsibility," says Erik, who is nervous about confronting his boss.

Like Erik, most people fear confronting an employer. But dodging conflict often makes the situation worse. Using good conflict resolution skills, however, opens the lines of communication and results in clarified job expectations, a more pleasant work environment, better relations with your boss, and more potential for professional growth.

Try using these techniques to work through your on-the-job conflicts.

Get emotions under control

Allow yourself time to cool off before facing your boss. This helps establish a state of mind helpful to problem solving. Your efforts will fail if you have a “me versus my boss” attitude or if you predict results before talking out the issues.

Give consideration to the time and place of your discussion. Picking a neutral meeting place that is likely to be free of interruptions and distractions is best.

Address conflict and explore underlying issues and needs

How you communicate is the key to strong conflict resolution. Share your view of the problem, being careful not to accuse or blame. Focus on the issue, not the way you are feeling toward your boss. Take time to listen to your boss’s response, and try to see the situation from her view. Don’t interrupt. A respectful, rational conversation will help clarify the real issues.

Conflict can erupt over differing values, preferences, methods and goals, or a combination of factors. Often, conflict comes from unmet needs or expectations. And almost always, it is hard to untangle the issues involved without open and honest communication.

In this example, Angie wasn’t aware of Erik’s wish for more responsibility and control over his work. As a result, Erik viewed Angie as an overbearing micromanager who was always squelching his efforts to get ahead. When these feelings were brought to Angie’s attention, she assured Erik that giving the project to a co-worker was not a personal attack or a reflection of her opinion of Erik’s skills or quality of work.

Identify mutually acceptable solutions

After taking the time to clarify your position and feelings, define your expectations—what needs to happen to help your working conditions or your relationship with your boss? Don’t make demands. Instead, tell your boss that you want to find a solution that meets the needs of everyone involved. Bounce ideas off each other until you find a positive yet realistic solution.

Remember the positive potential of addressing conflict. Erik’s situation is a good example. Angie was happy to learn about Erik’s wish for more challenge and responsibility. “Turns out,” says Erik, “Angie has been snowed under with work, and she didn’t realize how out of touch she’s been with her staff. She also lost sight of the advantages of delegating. Now, she hosts a bi-monthly meeting for her staff to talk about current and impending work and to delegate projects at hand”—a solution that pleases everyone.

Resources

Resolving Conflicts at Work: Ten Strategies for Everyone on the Job by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith. Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Conflict Resolution Network

By Christine P. Martin

Summary

  • Get emotions under control
  • Share your view of the problem
  • Identify mutually acceptable solutions

Erik had had it. When his boss, Angie, gave another co-worker a project Erik had wanted and worked for, he was angry and hurt. “I’ve worked so hard to show that I’m capable, but Angie won’t trust me with more responsibility," says Erik, who is nervous about confronting his boss.

Like Erik, most people fear confronting an employer. But dodging conflict often makes the situation worse. Using good conflict resolution skills, however, opens the lines of communication and results in clarified job expectations, a more pleasant work environment, better relations with your boss, and more potential for professional growth.

Try using these techniques to work through your on-the-job conflicts.

Get emotions under control

Allow yourself time to cool off before facing your boss. This helps establish a state of mind helpful to problem solving. Your efforts will fail if you have a “me versus my boss” attitude or if you predict results before talking out the issues.

Give consideration to the time and place of your discussion. Picking a neutral meeting place that is likely to be free of interruptions and distractions is best.

Address conflict and explore underlying issues and needs

How you communicate is the key to strong conflict resolution. Share your view of the problem, being careful not to accuse or blame. Focus on the issue, not the way you are feeling toward your boss. Take time to listen to your boss’s response, and try to see the situation from her view. Don’t interrupt. A respectful, rational conversation will help clarify the real issues.

Conflict can erupt over differing values, preferences, methods and goals, or a combination of factors. Often, conflict comes from unmet needs or expectations. And almost always, it is hard to untangle the issues involved without open and honest communication.

In this example, Angie wasn’t aware of Erik’s wish for more responsibility and control over his work. As a result, Erik viewed Angie as an overbearing micromanager who was always squelching his efforts to get ahead. When these feelings were brought to Angie’s attention, she assured Erik that giving the project to a co-worker was not a personal attack or a reflection of her opinion of Erik’s skills or quality of work.

Identify mutually acceptable solutions

After taking the time to clarify your position and feelings, define your expectations—what needs to happen to help your working conditions or your relationship with your boss? Don’t make demands. Instead, tell your boss that you want to find a solution that meets the needs of everyone involved. Bounce ideas off each other until you find a positive yet realistic solution.

Remember the positive potential of addressing conflict. Erik’s situation is a good example. Angie was happy to learn about Erik’s wish for more challenge and responsibility. “Turns out,” says Erik, “Angie has been snowed under with work, and she didn’t realize how out of touch she’s been with her staff. She also lost sight of the advantages of delegating. Now, she hosts a bi-monthly meeting for her staff to talk about current and impending work and to delegate projects at hand”—a solution that pleases everyone.

Resources

Resolving Conflicts at Work: Ten Strategies for Everyone on the Job by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith. Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Conflict Resolution Network

By Christine P. Martin

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please contact your human resources department. ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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