At any company, there are going to be internal skirmishes about products and managerial decisions.How you as an employee, or manager, deal with those skirmishes can determine the future of your career and the success of your company.
Steven Sinofsky, the former leader of Microsoft’s Windows division has a long blog post exploring how to deal with disagreement within your company.
He’s an interesting person to write about the topic. When he left Microsoft, the spin from Redmond seemed to be that he was a political in-fighter who didn’t play nice with other division leaders. His inability to work with others was a problem, and so he had to go.
We don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but reading his post on organizational disagreement makes it clear that he spent quite a bit of time thinking about and dealing with conflict.
Here are his tips for dealing with fights at work:
- Consult with an expert. Whenever there is a disagreement make sure the person who is an expert on the topic is consulted. Too often there are disagreements within a group and those disagreements are held back from the expert because he/she is not in the group. Always consult the expert, and if possible figure why s/he was not in on the decision making from the start.
- Stick to your original plan. When you start on a project, get everyone in the team to agree on a broad plan. Then, as you work on the project, stick with the plan. Breakdowns occur when people veer from the plan. If they agreed early on to a framework, then it’s easier to proceed on a smooth path.
- Build a culture of respect. This relates to the notion of experts. You might be a developer who doesn’t believe in the ad department. But the marketing people know what they’re doing. And you might be a marketer who hates legal restrictions, but the legal department knows what it’s doing. Rather than fight with other groups respect them and their choices.
- Make everyone on a team accountable. Sinofsky says this is related to culture. Everyone needs to be working together and feeling equally accountable for the outcome of a project.
- Choose your battles. Work is long and hard at times. Don’t make it longer and harder by fighting to the death over every small thing that pops up. (Also, this way when you do choose your fight it has more impact.)
- Finally, when you end an argument, end an argument. Too many times people agree to disagree, but they let the disagreement fester. They bring it up any chance they can. That’s not productive.