Q. I have two co-workers who hate each other. They're constantly in my office telling me their latest tale of woe. They both have good points...
Q. I have two co-workers who hate each other. They’re constantly in my office telling me their latest tale of woe.
They both have good points about each other but I’m starting to dread seeing either of them. How can I tell them to leave me out of it?
A. You need to help them see that telling you the problems they have with each other will never solve their conflict. In fact, the more they vent to you, the more likely they’ll never talk to each other. When they get done fuming in your office, they feel better, you feel worse, and the war goes on.
In psychotherapy, we call what they’re doing “triangulation.” That occurs when two people have a conflict and are afraid to talk directly to each other. They stick a third person in the middle so they can discuss the issues without risking conflict.
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Unfortunately, both people end up with a new conflict because they’re upsetting you without being willing to do anything to fix the problem.
To get yourself out of the middle, say this to both co-workers: “I know you wouldn’t purposely do anything to put me in the middle, and I know you know I can’t solve this conflict. In the future, if you bring up this issue, I can only recommend you talk to our co-worker.” Then gaze silently.
Whatever you do, avoid offering advice or comfort. You’ll only encourage your co-workers to come back for more.
Realize that people who want solutions will complain, ask for ideas then deal directly with the problem. Anyone who repeatedly bends your ear without having the courage to take action is looking for an emotional dumping ground.
Initially, you may feel important, as both co-workers desperately seek your attention. In the end, you’ll simply feel burned out and powerless.
Next time your co-workers approach, use your new words and exit. They’ll have to start dealing with each other or find a new ear to bend.
The last word(s)
Q. One of my co-workers meditates in his office at lunch. Is the office an appropriate place to meditate?
A. Yes, anything that creates more peace of mind in the workplace sounds good to me!
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at email@example.com; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube