Though it may seem difficult, there is an effective way to let a colleague know they’re getting under your skin. Don't be passive-aggressive or simmer in silence: chances are they’ll pick up on your disapproving signals. Instead, express your issues in the safest way possible by following these steps from Caroline Webb, Senior Advisor to McKinsey and Company:
- Ask first before diving in. It’s not a good idea to spill everything that’s on your mind all at once. Keep yourself, and your coworker, sane by asking them first, “There’s something on my mind, may I talk to you about it?” This shows you’re willing to work with, not against, your colleague.
- Provide objective points. Be specific and make sure what you bring to the table isn’t emotionally charged or highly opinionated. So, don’t say things like, “this idea sucks” or “you’re stifling me”. Being so broadly critical will only make the other person upset and more resistant to compromise. Instead, say something like, “I noticed that your copy is longer.” State facts, don’t make personal attacks.
- Explain how these objective points are affecting you. You’re upset because you care about doing good work, so make that clear to your coworker without using aggressive language, like “that made me worried I don’t understand what you want from me,” or, “I’m concerned that this isn’t aligning with our ultimate goal.” Express your concern genuinely and with respect. Be honest, but remember your “why”—you’re trying to make this project the best it can possibly be.
- Ask them for their take. Now that you’ve said what’s on your mind, it’s important to understand your coworker’s perspective to get closer to a solution. Even if you don’t agree with what they say, it’s necessary to know where they are coming from.
- Reach a compromise. Research shows people will stick to an idea they’ve helped create, so before introducing your own catch-all solution, ask how you can help them achieve your shared goals. Remember, it’s about working together without resenting each other.
Takeaway: If you’re annoyed with a colleague, take a simple, non-aggressive approach to solving the problem, with a focus on compromise.