When difficulties arise in professional relationships there are prescreening questions I encourage people to take a few days to answer – preferably in writing – before they enter into what may be necessary conflict or confrontation. The exercise usually results in creative solutions rather than in reactive or polarizing positions:
• Who immediately (person, team, or committee) is empowered to address the difficulties? Avoid going above anyone or short-circuiting avenues already in place. Going “to the top” is tiring for “the top” and leads to mistrust.
• What is my role in the creation of the difficulties? Difficulties do not arise in a vacuum. What have I chosen to ignore that has contributed to the difficulties?
• Am I making something personal that is not personal at all either about another or myself? Am I able to distinguish between what is about me and what is not?
• What can I do to present possible solutions rather than point out problems? Blaming others is seldom helpful or accurate.
• Am I regarding myself as one who is empowered and trusted or as one who is a victim? The former are usually inspiring to work with while the latter drain the joy out of the most inspiring of jobs and workplaces.