Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: A team meeting erupted into a fight between me and my colleague. We both walked out angry. This is not the first time it’s happened. How do I make peace with him, and get our relationship on a better track?
Answer: Anyone can have a flash of poor judgment and angry words. When you find yourself in the cringeworthy aftermath of a conversation gone bad, here are some steps to follow to salvage the relationship and strengthen your impact as a team member.
Sit down with yourself first. We tend to judge ourselves based on our intentions. We tend to judge others based on their actions. Take a moment to consider your colleague’s intentions. Is his passionate approach coming from his desire to innovate? Is he coming across as a drag based on his hope to protect the team or the company from risk? What positive contribution is he trying to make, and how can you benefit from his perspective?
Extend an olive branch. Set up a one-on-one meeting with your colleague. Take accountability for your behavior by acknowledging specifically what you did wrong. Did you interrupt him? Attack the messenger? Criticize too quickly? Let him know that you’re interested in working together to acknowledge each other’s intentions and avoid future explosions.
Take the temperature. Don’t rush through your apology before allowing your teammate the space to process what you’ve said. Use his cues to determine if he’s ready to disarm and discuss the situation now, or if he needs more time to think things through.
Press restart. When he’s ready to talk, be prepared to focus on the overall goal, not rehash the past. Be ready to identify the unique skills and perspectives that your colleague brings to the team. Ask him to work with you to find the common purpose that you’re both motivated to achieve so that you can move together faster.
Build up the trust account. The next meeting(s) will not necessarily start with you and your teammate locking arms. Just make sure they don’t end with knocking heads. You withdrew from the trust bank, and should expect that it will take time to rebuild from the residual hurt.