Management Matters: Stop Hiding from Friction

I’ve gotten a few calls in the last several weeks that go like this:

1.I’ve got friction in my life at work.

2.It is making me unhappy.

3.Hiding out is not working.

Maybe those points weren’t made as concisely but you get the point: hiding out from friction, conflict, and unpleasantness is not an effective strategy. It’s true that some things will blow over and everyone will move on but it may not serve you well as an ongoing strategy in dealing with others.

There are definitely ways to constructively manage these conversations. For those who think that friction or conflict at shouldn’t exist, it helps to examine where this idea came from in the first place. It’s a lovely fantasy but the reality is that as long as there are people who are not exact replicas of you out there in the world, there are going to be differences of opinion, different perspectives, and different solutions. Even if you are often the ‘smartest person in the room’ you aren’t always the smartest person in the room

There are many ways to solve problem, view situations, and accomplish tasks. There are a wide variety of interpersonal styles, personalities, management approaches and lots of ways to define success and successful outcomes. If you buy that these things are true, it makes sense to look at how we can make the space between our differences smaller so people can come to a viable resolution.

Talking to other people about the conflict may be a way for you to get input or a reality check, but it can only help you if you are working on creating a strategy to be used with the actual person who may be involved. At some point, talking about problems actually become another problem. I am not a big advocate of hiding.

There are some things to remember when you shine a light on interpersonal friction or disagreement. .

If you’ve been told that a topic is not up for discussion, don’t try to discuss it. However, being told not to discuss topics of importance repeatedly can be a good topic to bring up for discussion.

If you are going to point out where you disagree, make sure to point out where you agree. You are not confronting the person; you are having a conversation about something you disagree on, so frame the conversation that way. Focus on being an ally not a critic because your goal is to resolve the issue. Ask questions so that you can understand how they see things. Logic may not win the day.

If you have a difference of view point with the boss it can create even more than the usual fear and trepidation, but it does not have to be a career killing more to disagree.

Some ideas about how best to discuss alternative perspectives:

  • Stay calm and check your emotions at the door. People can disagree without being disagreeable
  • Focus on the action and the impact. Make it about the issue and not about the person/your boss.
  • Disagree in private. No one wants to be embarrassed publicly.
  • Ask a lot of questions so that you clearly understand how they see things. You may learn that you are not as far apart on things as you thought.
  • Be clear about what you don’t agree with. It’s hard to resolve ‘fuzzy issues.
  • Offer an alternative. Only a better idea can replace the first idea.
  • No one can read your mind – not even your boss.
  • Disagree and move forward. You won’t win them all and undermining things or sulking at work is unprofessional. Remember that the boss not only has the final word, carrying on the debate after it has essentially ended is potentially damaging for you.

Managing interpersonal differences is very challenging. We all have the scars to prove how badly people can handle them. Aim to be the person who handles friction well.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

Recent Deals

Interested in advertising your deals? Contact Edwin Warfield.

Connect with these Baltimore Professionals on LinkedIn

  • Edwin Warfield

    Editor in Chief, Warfield Digital

  • Jean Halle

    Independent Consultant

  • Larry Lichtenauer

    President of Lawrence Howard & Associates

  • Newt Fowler

    Partner at Womble Carlyle, LLP

  • David Crowley

    Owner at Develop DC

  • Carolyn Stinson

    Stinson Marketing Group