Everyday Negotiations

SHARE Voices: When to Pick Workplace Battles

In this SHARE Blog Review, Union co-president Sherry Nguyen describes a useful article for weighing options in dispute resolution. As a SHARE member you can also use our Problem Solving processes, as well as receive support from SHARE representatives. Please contact the SHARE office for help.

And, if you would like to submit an idea, a request, or a submission for publication on the SHARE UMMS blog, please email your thoughts to kirk.davis@theshareunion.org


When to Pick Workplace Battles

Submitted by Sherry Nguyen

A few weeks ago I read an informative article in the Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger, and I’d like to share some of the key points with you.  We’ve all experienced tensions in workplace, whether with coworkers or superiors.  The question is what to do about it.  Although most people try to avoid conflict, this is neither the most productive nor healthiest route.  Avoidance can create more useless tension that has a negative effect on productivity and creates unhealthy stress levels.

So what can be done?  In the article, “To Fight or Not to Fight? When to Pick Workplace Battles,” Shellenbarger emphasizes that the best action depends on the situation.  There are definitely some situations where waging war would be a losing battle and retreat is the most prudent action. Some of these situations include:

  • Picking fights over issues that are not relevant to your work or outside of your area(s) of responsibility
  • Battling over trivial issues based on personality or power
  • Waging war without offering solutions or suggestions
(Read the article at http://www.wsj.com/articles/picking-your-workplace-battles-1418772621 for more situations and details.)

Along with these suggestions as when not to do battle, the article offered winning strategies when you do decide that confronting the situation is the best way to proceed. These winning strategies include planning ahead, talking with your colleagues, and knowing when it is appropriate to disagree.     I highly recommend you read more (link) about these winning strategies.

Conflicts are a fact of life.  While it can be risky to speak up – hurt feelings, a damaged career -- not speaking up, especially if the annoyance is shared by others, can result in simmering frustrations which can lead to passive aggressive behaviors such as slacking off and backstabbing.  While learning when to pick a battle is an art worth learning, you have the benefit of SHARE staff who has the experience to help you through it, either with you in meetings with your supervisor or behind the scenes as a coach

The article “To Fight or Not to Fight? When to Pick Workplace Battles” was written by Sue Shellenbarger, and appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 12/16/14.