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How to Pick Your Battles at Work so You Don’t Lose the War
February 14, 2018
How to Pick Your Battles at Work so You Don’t Lose the War

Or, good things to do when things go bad with a coworker, and how to pick your battles at work.

If there is one thing to love about an internship, it’s the “people experience”. The quirky girl you’d never have befriended under different circumstances – well, now she has definite best friend potential. Even the loud guy down the hall is part of it; stop grinding your teeth – we promise you’ll laugh about it someday.

The point is that interns come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, and we’re bound to have varying perspectives. It helps to remember that while you are a special one-of-a-kind, others are, too. It’s what makes each of us valuable to the world.

In an ideal world, we would all be able to celebrate and appreciate each other’s special differences and always get along. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world. Sometimes, all of those differing points of view, forms of communication, personalities, and opinions can cause a major conflict.

Thanks to our competitive drive, of course, this is usually most obvious in the workplace.

Our appreciation for one another goes right out the window the second someone disagrees with us, turns on us, or picks a different side than us. You may disagree with how things are done and want to do something about it.

There will be times that we all have to pick our battles as interns. 

Here’s how to pick your battles so you don’t lose the war:

  • Cool off

When emotions are high, intelligence is low.

When something happens that makes your blood boil, take a minute. Cool off and think it over to discern between the challenges you truly need to give more energy to vs. the ones you can overlook and quickly move on from.

  • Don’t take it personally

You never know what’s behind a sudden criticism or rude remark, so don’t take it personally. The other person may be irritable because they had an off day themselves. It’s no excuse to take it out on you, but it may not be about you at all. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Try again tomorrow.

  • Think about the impact on you

If you bring your conflict to HR, imagine how they will see it—and you. Are you coming from a place of responsibility or are you acting like a victim? How you present your battle will reflect on you.

  • Have a battle plan

There needs to be an end game.

Don’t expect the other person to solve your problem.

Think carefully about what you want or how you think this can be resolved. At least it will show a positive attitude and willingness to look for a solution. If you want to make a change in policy, be ready with the reasons why it will improve things and a plan to get it done.

  • Talk it out with your workplace confidante

In most internship jobs, employers will set you up with a mentor who can be a “safe” person to turn to. If yours isn’t the right fit, pick a trusted co-worker, personal coach, or someone else who you completely trust. They will allow you the space to vent when you need to. They can also help you identify which situations should be left alone and which are worth pursuing further.

  • Ask for guidance

If you’re struggling with conflict or a possible battle in the workplace, consider speaking to a manager, someone in HR or the head of the internship program who might be able to advise you on how to best handle the situation with proper workplace etiquette. Their feedback can be very valuable.

  • Learn how to “agree to disagree”

We all experience things differently and have different perspectives. When we disagree with someone else, it’s rarely about right or wrong. It’s almost always about a difference of opinion. Knowing when the battle isn’t worth it and a certain level of maturity allows us to agree to disagree… and move on.

  • Take the high road

When you have a workplace issue, it’s best to always take the high road to handle the situation with as much grace and tact as possible. One way to avoid workplace issues altogether is to simply mind your own business and realize that your business is no one else’s business either.

Never ever gossip about the situation—that can really backfire.

  • Keep your focus on the work

Conflict of any sort requires energy to deal with, which means that it can negatively impact your work productivity. Isn’t that the whole reason you are there – to learn and add to your skillset? Do what you can to keep your energy focused on the bigger picture, so you’re not frustrated even more down the road.

  • Pick your battles carefully

Never pick a fight with a superior or one that is outside of your area of responsibility.

Decide whether or not the battle is even worth it. Ask yourself if the workplace will improve and articulate how when the time comes.

Workplace conflicts are inevitable and happen for a variety of reasons. Your real test is in how you choose your battles and how you deal with them. Most often, it’s best to just let the issue go.