Agree to Disagree? How to Have an Argument Safely with a Co-worker

Getting into an argument with your boss is risky enough. What about your co-workers? You can do almost as much damage to your career by fighting with your colleagues as you would by yelling at your boss. But some disagreements are unavoidable. Here’s how to win the battle without losing the war:

• Explore the details first. Are you really in disagreement? Maybe a project deadline, for example, is more flexible than either of you realize. Don’t jump to conclusions about what’s at stake.

• Pick your battles. Learn to compromise when the issue isn’t that important. Winning a simple argument probably isn’t going to be worth the struggle in the long run.

• Find common ground. As you explore the issues, look for areas of agreement. If you’re both committed to the final results of your project, but disagree about the means, you may be able to chart a middle path that satisfies both of you.

• Beware your triggers. Most of us have some issues we’re particularly sensitive about. If you hate being accused of sloppy work, for example, do your best to remain calm if a colleague accuses you of cutting corners. Anticipate what’s liable to set you off so you can prevent an overreaction.

• Don’t make the conflict personal. Remember that you’re both at work to help your organization achieve its goals. Learn to separate the dispute from your personal feelings. Staying calm and professional will go a long way toward cooling tempers and finding a reasonable solution.

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