Coworkers are like family: you don’t (usually) get to choose them. Instead, coworkers are typically, and dare we say hopefully, hired because of their resume and not because of their easy-going personality. What this inevitably means is that a good portion of your professional life is going to be spent sharing a space with individuals you’d rather never see at all. Not only is that bad news for you, it’s bad for business because coworker problems inhibit productivity and customer service.
When CPP Inc., publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, commissioned a study on workplace conflict they found that U.S. employees spend an average of 2.8 hours dealing with conflict on a weekly basis. That’s the equivalent of 385 million working days! Thus, no matter how laid back you are, it’s only a matter of time before you have to deal with some coworker friction.
Here are the three major ways coworkers clash, and what you can do to solve it.
1.) You have the same goal, but a different perspective on how best to make it happen.
Maybe you went to two different culinary schools that stressed two different techniques to do the same job. Maybe your coworker is a tank, and they can’t handle any job or conversation if it isn’t done in the most efficient manner possible. Or maybe you’re the tank, and your coworker gets so caught up in the details the food starts turning cold.
Despite the fact that there is conflict, it’s because both of you care a lot.
If you’re in this situation, where all parties ultimately are hoping for the success of the meal service but are struggling to make it happen due to differences in style or opinion, take heart. Despite the fact that there is conflict, it’s because both of you care a lot.
In this situation you need to:
A.) Value the strengths your coworkers bring to the table, and act like it. If Bill’s plating is the best in the city, tell him. Tell him you appreciate his eye for detail, and his commitment to excellence.
B.) Compromise, because that’s what adults do. If you’re able to recognize that your coworkers are gifted individuals you will promote unity, you will learn from them, and you will see the strength in multiple talent sets. Work through a practical and doable compromise that will allow Bill to plate, without ruining the quality of the food.
C.) Communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s likely that if you talk to Bill with respect and appreciation, he’ll do the same. It’s likely he’s a reasonable professional who recognizes that his plating skills will be in vain if the food isn’t served promptly. So talk to him about the aforementioned compromise like you’re talking to the plating prodigy he is.
2.) You don’t have the same goal at all.
Maybe Bill isn’t actually concerned with having a stellar meal service, maybe all he cares about is his plating and making sure he gets credit for said plating. Or perhaps you’re dealing with an individual who doesn’t have thick skin and refuses to let things go even at the cost of the kitchen running smoothly. If this is the situation you find yourself in it’s going to take a bit more gumption.
Here’s what you need to do:
A.) Give them a chance. The reality is that sometimes people don’t actually realize how they’re influencing everyone else. It can seem impossible, but it’s true. So at a time when you are calm and collected, with as much kindness and gentleness as you can muster, explain the situation from your perspective. Maybe, they didn’t realize. Maybe, you’ll learn about some hard things in their personal life, and they’ll be willing to talk through some solutions. But maybe not.
B.) In that case, it’s time to bring management into the situation. Rory Rowland, an expert on the subject says the most important thing to do in workplace conflict is to, “recognize that ripping the bandage off is painful, but after it’s done everything is all better.”
In his own company, he employed that method by bringing both individuals together to act as a third-party. “One of the techniques I used was you couldn’t restate your own position until you stated the other person’s position to their approval. When you’re angry and hurt, the last thing you want to do is restate the other person’s perspective.”
“One of the techniques I used was you couldn’t restate your own position until you stated the other person’s position to their approval. When you’re angry and hurt, the last thing you want to do is restate the other person’s perspective.”
But what he found was that often when people make themselves see the situation from the other side it creates an understanding between individuals. And while understanding doesn’t always lead to total acceptance, it does often lead to politeness and respect. So ask management to act as a third-party, and make it clear that your hope is that everyone involved will thrive.
3.) Sometimes, they’re just a jerk.
Unfortunately, the workplace is full of people who only ever have their best interest at heart. Perhaps you have a coworker who isn’t satisfied with succeeding, unless everyone else around them fails. Or perhaps you’re sharing a shift with an individual whose main priority is doing as little as possible, while still getting paid. In that situation follow the steps for type 2 and then:
A.) Let go. We know–let what?! How do you let go when what you’re really hoping to do is give them a piece of your mind? You do it by realizing you have very little control over what other people do. If you have taken the steps to neutralize the situation and you have made management aware, then do not let them ruin your chances of success or happiness. Take control of what you can, namely your attitude and performance, and reap the rewards of doing so.
Every conflict is an opportunity; it’s a chance to refine your problem-solving skills.
The good news is that every conflict is an opportunity; it’s a chance to refine your problem-solving skills. It’s a chance to prove to your superiors that you have what it takes to be in charge. And it’s ultimately a chance for you to impact the people around you in a positive way.
You might also like…
Founded in 1978, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse is an award-winning company with an "of service" culture, anchored by solid hospitality and guided by a compass of quality. The BJ's experience offers high-quality...
A cover letter doesn’t have to be a stressful task. Just follow the standard formula for a clear and professional letter.
Knowing how to handle difficult FOH situations will help you stand out for your boss and further you in your restaurant career. Follow these tips to really impress with your people skills!