How to Resolve Conflicts With a Remote Colleague
2018 is just around the corner. If one of your New Year’s promises (or dreams) is to get along better with a remote coworker, you’re not alone. Working with someone in the office every day and maintaining a great relationship can be tricky on its own, when you add distance to the mix, things get a little tricky.
Several years ago, I worked daily with a colleague in New York. I’m sure he’s a great guy, and I think I’m okay, but for some reason, almost every conversation we talked made the other person furious. Things like email and Slack don’t convey your tone, which, while it can be hilarious, can come across as harsh or offensive, and that great “joke” you’re trying to tell may sound the opposite instead. The way you want your interactions to go doesn’t always work out.
The Harvard Business Review recently posted some tips on how to resolve conflict with someone you work with remotely so you can work better together.
For starters, HBR suggests contacting this person and simply asking for some time to chat. If you’re upset, chances are they are too. It is also likely that they are unaware that your relationship is problematic, and there is no reason to complicate it by starting with an argument.
Instead, start by saying something like, “I find it difficult to work remotely and would like to talk for a few minutes about what works and how we could be more effective.”
When you offer them the opportunity to leave a review, you open up the opportunity for them to share what may be of concern to them. Instead of forcing them to defend themselves, you instead start a dialogue in which, hopefully, the two of you can work together to create a mutually positive situation.
Another good tip from HBR is to chat via video if face-to-face communication is not feasible. Video chat will allow you to see the expression on that person’s face so you can see that there is indeed friendliness, not hate, in their comments.
Explain to the person what they are doing, what bothers you, but try to be specific, but not blame. For example, instead of saying, “I thought you were rude in this meeting,” you might say, “I felt like you didn’t respect me when you interrupted my presentation.”
You understand the same thing, but you explain how the action affected you. Ask them how they perceived the situation. They may have a completely different idea of what happened, and this will change how you feel.
After you talk, make a plan for what you need to do next. HBR suggests setting a specific time frame to speak with this colleague. Perhaps once a week or once a month to keep the conversation going.
It’s not an idea that will work for every difficult employee (I’ve definitely had a few, and I know it won’t work; it definitely won’t work), but it can be a good first step towards solving the problem and having a Much more enjoyable work experience. 2018 year.