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The humanKIND Blog

3 Powerful Ways to Resolve Workplace Drama Through Reframing

If you're human, you've got issues. That's not an insult, it's a truth. You're human and fallible.

You’re also surrounded by humans who are fallible and imperfect. That means conflict/drama WILL arise, even – or especially? – at work. There is power in reframing your encounters to navigate the wonderfully maddening humanness that is inevitable.

When negative encounters happen at work and you find yourself confused, frustrated, angry, hurt, or stuck, consider these three options to reframe the situation.


Change your shoes

You’ve heard the advice, “put yourselves in their shoes.” It’s not new advice – but it IS effective. Tough, but effective. This approach helps most in building empathy for the person.

It’s tough because we’re inherently self-focused, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. Despite how we are hardwired, we can challenge ourselves to move out of our own way and attempt to view the situation from the other person’s perspective.

I’ve found that visualization is a great tool for situations where you continue to have negative or ineffective encounters with someone at work.

  • Imagine yourself as the other person starting their day and consider what they may be thinking about work.

  • Transition to seeing them arrive to work. As they walk past your desk, they greet you with a smile.

  • Imagine the tasks and projects on their plate and how much effort they put into ensuring these are done to the best of their ability.

The more negative your feelings towards this person, the harder this approach will be. Challenge yourself to walk in their shoes and complete this reframing exercise at least 5 times within a one-week period. I believe you’ll find your openness to them and their approach will increase.


Consider your future

One of my favorite mantras is “In 10 years…” I tend to say it to myself when I’m annoyed, and it’s particularly helpful in situations where you have little to no control over the outcomes or people involved. (Large percentage of your interactions, eh?)

With the mantra, I remind myself that I will not be working on this project, working with this person, working on (insert frustrating thing here) in 10 years. It reframes your thinking super quick!

This approach is especially powerful if you can envision something you will be doing in 10 years. Perhaps it’s a certain type of job, special time with family or a place you’d like to travel to. Whatever you envision, you are replacing the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. I’ve seen this work countless times for settling down the negative energy in your mind and helping you approach the situation with more openness. Thus, making you more effective.


I'll take "alternatives" for $500

Ok, Trebek, give me some alternatives to this crazy situation I’m forced to put up with!

You got it. This approach works when the only way out of this situation is going through it.

Part I: Take out a piece of paper and set a timer for 10 minutes. List all the actions you could take to change the situation. Doesn’t matter how silly or realistic! Go big! Write, “QUIT THIS JOB!” “Put a bag of flaming poop on their doorstep!” When you’ve gotten the big, dreamy, probably-unrealistic things listed – move to phase two.

Part II: Keep writing. I’m sure the timer is still going. Get specific…what other approaches haven’t you tried with this person or situation? Who haven’t you gone to for advice or advocacy? What book, guru or training could you leverage to obtain a new skillset that could help you get different results?

Part III: Review the list and select 3 things that you’ll try this week. Don’t make them huge. It could be to smile more when you’re talking with the person who you are conflicting with. Maybe you search the job boards to get a flavor for life on the other side. Maybe you even decide to talk directly to the person involved – GASP!


Repeat, repeat, repeat!

I’d love for you to try these approaches and keep me updated on how they work. If you don’t have success right away, keep at it. The human and organizational behaviors affecting the situation have been on repeat for years, so it’s going to take more than one gesture to shift the energy.

I believe if you put in consistent effort, you will move the needle. Things won’t stay the same unless you let them!

Peace and Progress



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