Using official communication to clarify roles helps prevent conflict, writes Tania Ngima
The workplace by its very nature can be a minefield to navigate sometimes. This is especially so when you throw competition, friendships and misunderstandings into the mix.
In ordinary life, we resolve misunderstandings with friends by having honest conversations and clearing up the tension. This approach may not be ideal for the workplace as normally people avoid showing their vulnerabilities for obvious reasons. The key to resolving tension is getting the right mix of professionalism, friendship and caution.
Benefit of doubt
Assumptions can be a dangerous thing in the workplace. Meanings of things said often get lost in translation, even in emails. Before you make an assumption or jump to conclusions, give the situation or the person the benefit of the doubt. Say, if you hear that a colleague has been claiming the credit for a project, which is due to you, do not start fighting back by bad-mouthing them. Instead, analyse the situation and determine whether it is true.
This can be looked at from different perspectives such as: Will it affect or sour future working relationships? Do the people who matter; say your superiors, know that the credit was due to you especially if something such as a promotion rests on this? This will help determine whether there is a real threat or whether perception is warping the magnitude of the scenario.
You might find that there is really no need to get involved at the end of the day, as sometimes retaliating turns a little tension with colleagues starting to take sides. Also, ensure that you recognise the role your behaviour may have consciously or unconsciously played in the situation.
A good way of avoiding misunderstandings is by using official communication to clarify roles, duties and responsibilities. Always ensure you copy in the relevant people, but avoid the syndrome of unnecessarily copying in too many bosses as this inadvertently starts to look like you are being a tattletale.
Of course, if you think that the scenario may hurt future projects, working relationships or have a future impact on your career in the organisation then by all means escalate it. This may involve bringing in the human resources department or your direct supervisor. Beware premature escalation as most of these complaints go on the record and may turn out in or not in your favour. When involving a supervisor, stick to just the facts of the case and leave emotions, as much as is possible out of it. Objectivity and professionalism is the key to getting your complaint taken seriously.
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