The Q4 Model

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What If You Lose Your Cool With a Colleague?

Dec. 17th, 2018

The Situation

You’ve been chosen as a member of a five-person cross-function team charged with cutting overhead costs in your organization.

One area that looks promising is to switch the company’s business computing to the cloud. It would reduce capital costs for equipment and servers, as well as other expenses related to IT services.

Don has argued vehemently against this idea, painting a picture of data recovery nightmares and security breaches. You think this is a smokescreen for the fact that Don’s cousin owns the business that currently provides IT services to your company. You feel Don is trying to protect his cousin’s interests.

Out of Hand

After another animated meeting about this, you see Don in the hallway. “Don,” you call out, “it’s crazy how biased you are against an idea that could save us so much money. I think you’re being dishonest by not admitting your own bias here, and it’s not fair to the rest of us. You can’t be open-minded with your cousin’s involvement.”

Don responds, “I resent that you think that’s the reason for my opposition! My concerns are real. My cousin is the reason I know how tough it can be to switch to the cloud. You haven’t done anything to address my safety concerns. So who’s really being dishonest?!” With that, Don storms off.

Obviously, things have gotten out of hand. As a Q4 leader who has let your emotions take over in this exchange, how should you proceed in dealing with Don?

Your Choices:

Apologize and smooth over your disagreement. If you can re-establish an agreeable atmosphere before re-opening the topic, you are both apt to refrain from losing your tempers.
Since Don plans to dig in his heels defending himself, you must get a neutral third party to settle this disagreement. Ask your boss to sit in on your attempt to resolve it.
Acknowledge to Don that things got out of hand emotionally. Then, ask for Don’s help to discuss and resolve this issue, listing benefits to Don for giving it another try.

Choice A

If this were a heated argument with a neighbor or a relative, rather than a colleague, this might be good advice. In that situation, you could walk away without reaching an agreement. However, being on this committee together, you do have to seek a resolution with your colleague. Going Q3 (overly friendly and compliant) will make it difficult for you to be honest about your concerns. Maybe you lost your cool, but you did have a point. Besides, you may come off as insincere if you try to smooth it over, leaving Don as adamant as ever. Look at Answer C.

Choice B

You may have to get your boss involved at some point, but try to avoid that as much as possible. Part of being a Q4 leader is using your collaborative skills to work out differences. Going to your boss because you and Don had a heated exchange doesn’t make either of you look like capable professionals. You were picked to be on this team to come up with answers, not create new problems. Answer C is stronger.

Choice C

This is the best response. Approach Don with the idea of acknowledging that your previous encounter got out of hand, and ask for his help to resolve the issue. It shows your goal is Q4 — you want to work together to achieve a goal, not beat down an opponent’s view. This way, you aren’t hiding your concerns, but you are trying to be more productive. List benefits to Don for working out the issue. Keep your emotions in check this time, and try to be open and objective.