Have you ever had a feeling of anger towards a coworker who you think is such a mess that nothing could save them? 😡
Welcome to the world of conflicts! Tensions are part of everyday life: when someone is late to a meeting, when a driver makes a dangerous move on the road or when your children just don't listen to what you say. 🙄
We have a surprise for you: there are never any tensions at OpenClassrooms!
... just kidding of course. Conflicts happen all the time everywhere, and OpenClassrooms is no different. What we do however is deal with these conflicts, so they never grow this big:
This is not how you should deal with conflict of course. So, what should you do to prevent your anger from getting out of proportion?
How to deal with conflict
Tensions arise between two people. Sometimes "groups" are involved, but when the conflict is broken down it's really a relationship problem between two people.
Minor conflicts can occur on a daily basis, for reasons that can appear trifling: "Why didn't he say hello to me today? Does he hate me? Oh my god, I'm sure it's because I didn't go to his birthday party last night."
Untreated, these problems only grow bigger. When you don't talk, when you don't confront the problem, the air will progressively become increasingly electric between the two of you. ⚡️
How do you solve these conflicts? Well, the answer is deceptively simple: talk. Talk. Talk. Talk.
It's easy to say, but harder to do... we know. But it really is the only way. This is why we've come up with a specific process when you have an issue with someone (big or small, don't wait!):
Talk with the person in private, and try to find a common ground. You should agree on something both of you would do in the future.
If it doesn't work, ask for someone in the company to act as a mediator that both of you would agree on. The mediator won't be a judge, she won't decide anything, but she will ask questions to help you find a solution.
If it still doesn't work, a group of mediators from within the company will be created. This should solve the problem, as the group of mediators is a very powerful setup.
Real life example: we once had someone who was disturbed in a meeting with a customer because someone else was taking a break in our kitchen nearby, talking loudly. Shouting "Shut up!" would have solved the problem immediately, but would have created a bigger tension between the two people in the long run.
What did the first person do? She went to talk to the second person later on, to explain why it was unpleasant to have such noise with a customer. After a discussion, the second person agreed to be careful about talking too loudly in the kitchen when there were customers visiting us.
Why you should keep your ego at bay
The above story looks too simple to be true. In the "real world", I hear you say, the second person would say "Hey, I wasn't talking that loud! You just say that because... because you don't like me! I've always known that, we never really work together, go out for lunch together. We just can't get along! So piss off!".
Sounds more legit, right? 😈
Well, the reason it was managed so well is because there is some kind of secret sauce. It's hard to grasp, but once you've understood this, you can solve a lot of issues.
The secret sauce is: everyone should keep their egos at bay when discussing a conflict.
Your ego is the part of you that wants to appear professional and in good shape in all circumstances. It's the part of you that doesn't want to "lose face". It's also the part of you that wants to fight.
To make it work, the two conflicting parties should be conscious of their ego and start talking with as little tension as possible. There's no need to blow things out of proportion.
One key we've found to keep our egos at bay is to start by appearing vulnerable. This can be hard to do at first (your ego doesn't want to appear vulnerable), but it helps the other party if they see that you're bringing a white flag to the table. You should show that you're not perfect, that you're open to suggestions too.
How would you start a discussion in the example above? Here is one take on it: "Hey, I'd like to talk to you about the other day. I know I'm always with customers and ususally I don't mind when you're having a break at the same time, but the other day things got too loud and it was a bit disturbing. Could you be more careful next time? Of course, if the same happens to you, tell me!"
Now it's your turn! Don't be afraid to talk to solve your conflicts, whether it's with a coworker or a cofounder. No one is beyond reproach, everyone should make efforts to make the office a nice place! If you need to, remember to refer to this chapter for help on dealing with conflicts.
What you should do
In one word: talk.
If you need more words, here they are:
Whenever you feel a tension with someone, don't wait: ask to talk in private with them for a few minutes to find a solution.
Always come bearing a (virtual) white flag. Appear vulnerable right at the beginning to show the other person that you're not perfect either and that you are open to feedback...
Whild you're both talking, try to keep your ego at bay at all times. You are both adults who need to solve a specific problem.
If your private discussion wasn't successful, agree on a mediator for the next time. Remember that they won't make any decisions, they will only help you reflect on the problem.
If there is still no successful outcome with a mediator, a group of mediators should be created the next time.
If you hesitate or are afraid to take action at first, ask for advice from one of the cofounders Pierre or Mathieu. They will be very happy to guide you and will understand that it's not easy the first time.