3 minute read

Do you find you simply cannot get things done with some of your colleagues? They may always drift away from the main topic in the meetings, or find faults in the solutions, or have a too simplistic view of projects. Sometimes it may even be someone whom you manage or whom you report to.

I understand your frustration. But it doesn’t has to be like that. You don’t need to meet emotion with emotion. I hope you after reading this, you can focus on making progress. You can meet emotion with calmness. You can avoid my mistake. In one of my workplace, there was a colleague that is very critical to every initiatives from other departments to improve the collective productivity, including mine. We have been suggesting a lot of possible improvements, but because he is so insisted to his own way of working it is hard for us to collaborate. I gradually grew emotional whenever I have to deal with him. Although I consider my emotion comes from I care deeply about the growth of the company, this is when leadership see me as immature and unable to work with colleagues.


So enough of my story. Let’s get you prepared before the next encounter with your “troublesome” colleagues. You must instill this mindset: everyone has a point, everyone has different logic and everyone is facing a different situation. Seal it in your mind. Put it in word why he or she is bothering you. Can you explain to another colleague when he or she is bothering you, do you see some pattern in there? You can take this as an opportunity to understand where you are coming from and be able to communicate clearly with anyone.

After the preparation, the next action will be crucial. You need to flip the negative to the positive. Can you envision how to turn the negative trait of your challenging colleague to a positive one? For example for a colleague that is too critical, bring him up in brainstorming session on failure models or risks, or consult him whenever there are mission critical components. By doing so, you are creating a win-win situation. Your colleagues can thrive and be productive, and you can get the projects to move forward. There was a colleague always have questions about different initiatives and I make sure I consult him whenever I am working on projecting possible risks and challenges. As a result, our plannings can be more thorough. This is why I stressed everyone has a point.

Another technique is to directly speak with the person in a time when both of you can be calm. Your colleagues may be dealing with other situation you don’t know. I have had good results in grabbing a lunch or doing a little water-cooler talk with them. Once you were outside the tensed disagreement of work, you could understand more about them. Be it where they came from, what is the thinking process of them and other aspect that you may be not aware. Afterall, everyone is facing a different situation.

The last technique is to zoom out. Maybe the company has a conflicting strategy, unclear direction and other organizational hiccups. I once has a 1 1/2 hours debate with a colleague on the scope of project, only to find out there was an ambiguous term in our OKRs that lead us to two vastly different conclusions. Once aligned, we were able to come together in 5 minutes. Hence my belief of everyone has a different logic has served me well.

But if everything fails, it is ok. Build a protocol to deal with him/her and escalate to the management. But at the same time promote other initiatives that will help the company to grow. Focus on those you can move and get your results.

Remember, as you become more influential, there will be more people you need to work with. It is more how you act AND speak that and bring people together, or push people apart. Practice makes perfect. You got this.

To understand more about different kinds of people and have a framework of describing personalities, I recommend to go for the big five personality traits.

Also to learn how to calm yourself in 30 seconds, learn How to double deep breath?. You will need this in a heated debate.