I was never very good at communication when it comes to crucial conversations that are closely related to my own interests. In situations where there is a conflict or a need to speak for myself, i usually choose not to “defend” or “fight” at the moment. I may come back to the issue later to talk about it, but rarely in the middle of the heat. (Partially because I need time to cool off and analyze the issue.) Sometimes it works out fine, but sometime it doesn’t.
This happened again recently at work when i had a small conflict with one of my co-workers. “Small” may be a debatable term, as my co-worker may see it as not small. It all started with a large client account we acquired recently. How large is the account? Approximately 70% of the company revenue, so yes, it’s a very important account for a small agency like us. Meanwhile, I am in charge of the three sub accounts within this big account and unfortunately, due to this reason, most of my work (sometime personal) time and effort are dedicated into managing them. On top of that, I still have two other smaller accounts. My co-worker, let’s call her Sally, who is the account manager for one of the smaller account, is not too thrilled about my time management, because clearly I am not putting as much time as I should.
Honestly I feel very bad for not putting enough time managing Sally’s account. But the reality is, I have to make priorities because I already overwork and cannot play “fair” to each account. I explained to Sally several times about the situation, hoping she will understand and work with me. However, it didn’t seem to work out.
So one morning, she came to my desk, checking on a report she wanted for her client. She set the due day as the same day, even though the actual report won’t be delivered to the client several days later, because she wanted time to review it and make changes. I understand and appreciate her perfectionism. However, with other more urgent tasks i had for that day, the report was simply not on top of my to day list. So I told her I needed one extra day. She flipped out and raised her voice, said,”I don’t care. I need the report today! Otherwise, I may have to speak to the HR about this!” My first reaction is “Seriously? Reporting to HR?” Then I think. “This is ridiculous. I don’t want to talk to you right now.” So I didn’t say anything, ignored her and went back to my work.
Rest of the story: She reported to the HR and even the CEO was aware of our conflict. But nothing worse happened.
Looking back, what I could have done differently, is having a dialogue with her, instead of being quiet about it. After all, we did have a mutual intent (to help the client success). What I didn’t do was speaking from the heart and create mutuality. I was listing out simple facts to her and didn’t try to create the bonding with her at the emotional level. As a result, she didn’t accept my explanation. In a way, she even felt I was “intentionally” doing it to attack her. (which was completely not true.)
Creating a dialogue will definitely be something very challenging for me to do. But at least now I am aware of it and understand the pitfall of being silent and not initiating the dialogue. Start slow and make simple progress, and hopefully one day, I can master better in situations like this.