Prioritising should take into account your goals and objectives. Carmen Pérez Pies, National Chairperson of European Management Assistants, Germany advises: ‘Constant communication and updates with your boss is imperative so that you can align your priorities to match theirs.’
Stress is what we feel when we cannot cope with pressure. It can cause damage to your health and your relationships both at work and at home. Having controlled pressure, in contrast, helps to raise adrenaline levels, gets your brain working and gives you energy.
To deal with conflict, think through the reaction you want to give, take time to review the situation, try to put your emotions to the side and consider the outcome you desire. If, for example, you are about to send an angry e-mail reply to someone, then you should stop and think about picking up the phone and asking for a meeting with the person concerned. You should decide on a mutually convenient time, date and location. The meeting place should be in a neutral, private place, not in your office or in the other person’s as this gives a psychological advantage.
You have to remember that you cannot fundamentally change people, though you can influence them to change their behaviours (and to do this you have to constantly communicate with them and feed back to them). You can, however, change yourself, and using affirmations is one way to do this. We use affirmations because our brains will respond to whatever we tell them. The affirmations go into our subconscious part of the brain where our deep-seated beliefs are kept.
Empathising and putting yourself in other people’s shoes is to be recommended. However, you have to be careful that you do not neglect your own needs and feelings if you empathise too much, as this can lead to your becoming passive or timid.
Difficult people are not born difficult; they create and learn how to express these attitudes and behaviours, and because they are ‘learned’ behaviours we can influence them to have better ones. Separating the behaviour from the person is the key to a successful working relationship.
Realise that the disagreement may be a good thing – a chance to clear the air, to solve a problem, to move things on and give you the opportunity to correct something that could have had dire consequences.
You should think carefully about what you want to say and how you want it to come across. You need to keep your communication simple and concise, getting to the point whether you are communicating by e-mail, telephone, or face-to-face meetings. However, you must take care not to be perceived as aggressive when being concise, especially in e-mails. As a rule you should never enter into conflict situations when using e-mail.
Reframing the problem will trigger the mind to be creative and to think/do something different. Use the ‘wonderful if’ phrase: ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if…’ Use imagination and dreams to come up with many ‘off the wall’ ideas to help your creativity and then something sensible will come out of it. When dealing with conflict situations, there are certain words that would serve better than others in getting your point and feelings across.
You need to set boundaries and let other people know what these are. Some people are selfish or thoughtless and disregard your boundaries.
If you let things build up and you don’t express your feelings and needs, you will eventually feel resentment. Your reactions and body language may confuse people as they are not mind readers and may not understand your point of view. If you feel yourself getting angry, then say something for everyone’s sake.
Assertiveness is a strategy for gaining mutual respect that helps resolve conflicts. It is the key to good, clear, professional communication. It is about being neither passive and walked all over nor aggressive and confrontational – it’s about getting your point across in a confident manner. When you use assertiveness you can negotiate changes by stating directly what you think, feel and want.
Nearly all of us, at some time in our working lives, have to deal with difficult situations and difficult people. We therefore need to learn how to manage conflict to make sure that we continue enjoying going to work and building effective and efficient working relationships. Conflict can at best cause unproductive work days, and often leads to stress-related problems that result in sickness and absence from work.
When people are asked why they left their last job, the answer often involves a difficult boss. Some are really bad and no one finds it easy to work with them, whilst others simply have some very annoying habits. Sometimes an employee and a boss have a personality clash. If you do consider you have a difficult boss you should try to find out whether the problem lies with you, your boss, or a combination of the two.
You should be clear about your own personal development plan, knowing what activities you intend to undertake and how you are going to make these happen and when. You should look out for opportunities to put them into practice and work with your boss to make them happen. When opportunities arise – grab them with both hands.
If people have given you constructive criticism, it should be backed up with examples/proof and not just reflect subjective feelings. If they have not given any examples then ask for them. If they have not got any and you disagree with the feedback, then say so.