Today we’re talking about how conflict avoidance can get you in big trouble.
I’ve worked alongside an arrogant, controlling coworker for two years. In two years Tom has never made a mistake – according to him. If Tom fails to give me critical information, he says it was because I wasn’t clear enough on what I needed. If Tom doesn’t return a client’s phone call, it’s because he says he never got the message, insinuating that I took the call and didn’t give him the message. I could give you dozens of examples, but the bottom line is Tom blames me for every problem.
Although I find this annoying, I’ve let Tom get away with it. I could easily print out the emails that show I’ve sent him the information needed and the information on the calls, but when I initially did this, things got really tense and I’ve decided just to let Tom have his way.
I thought going along to get along was the best strategy and it seemed to work, until this morning, when I got my job review. My boss marked me down in multiple areas. I learned he unfairly considered me the problem in all the situations where I let my coworker point the finger at me. When I tried to set the record straight, my boss said, “You’re either lying to me now or you’ve been lying all year.”
I left my review feeling I have no option for getting fairly rated.
What we don’t say can get us into more trouble than what we say. Your conflict aversion led you to swallow what you could have said, allowing Tom to cast blame on you.
You can get your supervisor to listen to you if you stop doing what you accuse Tom of doing – finger-pointing. You consider your supervisor unfair, yet you never stood up for yourself. You undoubtedly see Tom as the problem because he shirks responsibility – but you’ve done the same thing.
Change this. Tell your supervisor know you learned a major lesson when he gave you your performance review – that you need to deal with problems when they happen and in a way that fixes them so they don’t repeat. Admit your culpability in colluding with Tom in a “who’s to blame” work relationship – and he may listen to you with fresh ears.
© 2016, Lynne Curry. If you’d like an answer to your career question, it’s easy. Write firstname.lastname@example.org. Lynne authored Beating the Workplace Bully (AMACOM, 2016) and Solutions. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.