Confrontation v. Conversation

Dear Robin:

I have worked with “Blaire” for nearly six months since she arrived at my company where I’ve worked since 2005.  In that short time she has done several sneaky things to undermine me with my boss and co-workers.

Her efforts tend to be clumsy and fail but she has yet to be fired and I’m worried one of these days she may succeed in making me look bad.  Clearly she is angling for my job but she’s much younger and does not have the requisite experience.

Should I confront her and tell her I know what she’s up to?  Or should I just talk to my boss about my concerns?  I haven’t done that yet because I’m afraid I’ll come off poorly.

Your advice is appreciated,

Amy

Dear Amy:

Women in the workplace.  

Women in general.

Why do we make it so hard for each other?  Why do I never get these question from men?

Sigh. 

fatfig

Sorry for the tangent.  Back to you.

I’ve received questions like yours many times over the past few years.  Not just workplace scenarios, but the question in all sorts of relationships of “should I confront this person?”

Over time I’ve come to realize that there is a big difference between a “confrontation” and a “conversation,” and your choice of which to use should depend upon your desired outcome.

Let me explain.

What’s Your End Game?

Do you want to reach an understanding with Blaire about her behavior and achieve change?  You say she’s only been there for six months and her efforts to “make you look bad” are not working.  Is it possible she is simply doing her job wrong and isn’t out to get you?

Even if she is out to get you (and your job), what is your goal?  To change her behavior or to intimidate her?  Do you want to improve your workplace or do you want to make it worse?

If your goal is to improve the workplace, have a conversation with Blaire.

If your goal is to make it worse, have a confrontation instead.

Those of you shaking your head and accusing me of semantics can go to hell, because I believe the mindset you hold prior to an important discussion can easily determine the outcome before one word is uttered.

A “confrontation” sounds like an accusatory instigation of a fight initiated by the Good Guy against the Bad Guy.

A “conversation” is instead a search for the truth, understanding, and compromise.

I’ll do the work for you and provide you with a script for each scenario.  Please send me five dollars for the effort.

Conversation (to take place over lunch):

Blaire, I’ve been where you are.  I know what it’s like to be starting out in your career and in a new job with new people.  I’d like to serve as a sort of mentor to you as you navigate the waters of corporate life.

However, before I put myself in that position (and assuming you are interested) I feel it’s important to share with you my thoughts on some recent incidents involving us both.  I don’t know if you meant for your actions to come across the way they did, but you should know my first impression each time was that you were gunning for me in some way.

Rather than go with that impression, I spoke with my advice guru Robin. She suggested I consider whether I am misinterpreting your missteps and assigning them nefarious motives where perhaps there are none.  

Still, it’s important to me that I go over a few things that have happened and let you know how your actions affected not only me, but my perception of you.

(blah blah blah breaking down the incidents in question)

So, Blaire, can we start over from a fresh place of understanding and mutual respect?  Lunch is on me!

Confrontation (to take place in the parking lot after work):

Listen, bitch, I’ve been at this company for ten years; you’ve been here for ten minutes and you’re still wet behind the ears with your mother’s amniotic fluid of disappointment and regret over your conception.  

I know what you’re trying to do – you want my job and you think making me look bad and throwing me under the bus to the boss will do the trick.

Nice try, but it isn’t going to work.  The next time something like that happens I’ll be on your ass like Donald Trump on a Miss Universe contestant.  Don’t think I can’t play those games too, you stupid simpering conniving little twatwaffle.

I’m watching you.  Your shoes are ugly and your purse is a knock-off.

Fuck you.

Whether or not Blaire is a conniving bitch or a newbie making newbie mistakes will bear out over time, but I would start with the “Conversation” script first and see how things go.  

If your Blaire is anything like the last Blaire I had, no conversation or confrontation will change anything.  Sometimes we are forced to work with shitty people.  

If that is the case, how you handle the situation will say much more about you than her machinations say about Blaire, so tread carefully.  Cover your ass, document everything, and do not sink to her level.

I’ve done that sinking, both personally and professionally, and once you jump into that pit of shit it’s hard to climb your way out.

It can be done, but it is a damn difficult task.

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