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Communicate through Complicated Situations
October 25, 2016


We’ve all been there – a decision made that we didn’t like or a co-worker not doing what they were supposed to. Handling difficult situations in the workplace is tough, but can most likely be taken care of through good communication. Here are just a few situations that can take place in the workplace and how communication can help resolve the issue.

Unrealistic Expectations

Say that your boss or co-worker comes to you needing assistance on a project and they list out the details of the project.

A – what they are asking you to do, you don’t feel you’ll be able to accomplish or; B – the time frame they have given seems too tight.

A word of caution, be careful to be too quick to say you are unable to do the project. If you haven’t even tried and say you can’t do something, it will leave a poor impression. Rather, ask your boss for advice on how they would go about accomplishing the project. Throughout that discussion offer your ideas on how you might suggest getting to the finished product. If the timeline is too tight, share your concerns with your boss or co-worker and explain the other projects you need to complete, but you would be happy to help and tell them when you think you might be able to have the project complete. You can also follow that comment with, ‘If that does not work for you, are there others that could help me with the project or could we look at my current list of projects and reprioritize so I can get to this project sooner?’ Typically, if you are upfront and show your willingness to help, most will accept that response.

Problems with a Co-Worker

There is nothing that says you will or have to be best friends with everyone in the office. Like life, there will probably be people in the workplace that you just don’t get along with. How you handle interactions with those people can make a difference on how you are viewed by your peers and how you feel about yourself.

The Golden Rule applies – treat others as you’d like to be treated. Problem situations with co-workers usually revolve around poor communication and not understanding the point of view of the other person. When there is a conflict in the workplace your key weapon to not letting the problem escalate is to listen. Seek to understand what the other person is trying to communicate to you. Ask questions! In return, ask that your peer hears you out and why you feel the way that you do. Stay calm! Remember there is usually more than one way to do something or resolve a problem.

As you’ve likely experienced, you will probably be asked to work in teams. By nature, different people have different personalities and that becomes apparent when working in teams. Some prefer to be the leader, some the doer, and others can go back and forth. When you begin working in a team try to define who will act in which roles. If you have more than one person who fits the leader role, determine if they can work together in that role. If not, assign each a component of the project to lead. No matter what role you play, be sure to let your thoughts and opinions be heard and listen to others. Good teams seek input from all their members.

Dissatisfied with Your Work Environment

While it may be difficult, the best thing you can do for yourself in the situation of not liking your work environment is to communicate to your superior about it. If you do not have the resources you need to do your job or are unhappy with the physical space you’ve been provided nothing will change unless you say something about it. Approach your boss in a non-threatening manner and share your thoughts and why they are affecting you. A manager will realize that your concerns are affecting your productivity and will hopefully work to resolve the issues. However, know that sometimes managers can’t do much about certain things, like if you have office with a door. Rather, work with your manager to understand what the root of the issue is. If not having an enclosed office is prohibiting your ability to concentrate, maybe in your cubicle you could wear headphones to drown out some of the background noise when working on a project that requires you to really concentrate.

If your boss is the reason you are dissatisfied with your work environment, communicate what you feel comfortable with doing during performance reviews or casual discussions. If it is something more serious, speak with a human resource professional for the organization and seek advice. Remember, you don’t want to appear whiny and need legitimate reasons for going to HR

Working with Someone of a Different Background

This could be someone from a different generation, different culture, or even simply the opposite gender. There has been a lot of research done on communication between different generations as well as different genders. For example, Millennials like to receive a lot of feedback and communications, while Traditionalists, would rather you not over-communicate with them. While this topic could be its own article, one piece of advice if this becomes an issue for you, would be to ask for some formal or informal training on this topic.

Many forget that effective communication is a two-way street, the person talking and the person listening. Listening really is just as important and can help you handle many workplace communication situations. Be an active listener and ask questions. Good listening with effective verbal and written communication skills will help you become the best employee you can be!




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