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How to stand up for yourself at work and enjoy your job

Dealing with office politics

Almost everyone, at some point, has had a conflict at work. Some conflicts are easier to resolve than others. But what happens when the colleague you have a problem is in a higher position than you?

1. Give it a minute.

If a senior person in your organization does or says something to anger or upset you, avoid saying something in the heat of the moment. That’s when emotions are at their highest and you’re likely to say something you'll regret. Instead, take some time to cool off, and wait until you can talk to your manager calmly and rationally.

2. Time it right.

Instead of trying to “catch” your boss at a random time, schedule a one-on-one meeting. Setting aside a specific time on your boss’s calendar will ensure you have his or her full attention and lead to a more productive conversation. If you don’t want to be specific, tell your boss you want to discuss a personal matter and leave it at that.

3. Plan ahead.

Before meeting with your manager, think about what you want to say and what you want to get out of the conversation. Make a (mental or written) list of points you want to make, and be ready to discuss specific examples of times this person exhibited bothersome behavior, and how that behavior prevented you from doing your job effectively. Try to stay as objective as possible when discussing your problem, and separate facts from emotions.

4. Use "I" statements.

When discussing your problem, use “I” statements to get your point across. Using “I” statements prevents you from making accusatory (and unfair) statements that only lead to more conflict and misunderstandings. For example, instead of saying “You’re (or they're) giving me too much work,” say, “I feel overwhelmed by my workload.” Not only is the first statement likely to put someone on the defensive, it also assumes your boss is aware of how this behavior is affecting you, which may not be the case. With the second statement (the “I” statement) you’re taking ownership of your feelings and giving your boss the opportunity to present his or her side of the situation, paving the way to a more productive conversation.

5. Present a solution.

Don’t just come to the meeting with a laundry list of complaints, expecting your boss to solve the problems for you. Come with a proposed solution, which will not only prove your willingness to work toward a solution, but demonstrate impressive initiative as well.

Talking to your boss about a problem you have with your manager, or someone else, is never going to be easy, but you will likely end up with a better relationships and a better work experience as a result. Should you talk to your boss and nothing changes, however, it may be time to talk to HR.

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