Office Politics: Patching Up an Office Spat

Q.  One of my most irritating co-workers, a certifiable braggart, has been assigned to a team I’m working with.  He and I got into an argument at the first team meeting.  When I dissed his idea as unworkable he pouted and the rest of the team sided with him.  They thought his ideas were new.  At the three subsequent meetings he hasn’t said a word.  Since we are all supposed to contribute equally, how do I work with him?

A.  Do not apologize.  You gave your opinion.  Play this absolutely straight.  Ignore what happened at the first meeting.  Your strategy is to turn the argument into something that never happened.  Treat him as a friend and ask for his opinion.  Suggest your own ideas, volunteer to do your share, let him stew.  Either he will confront or pout.  If he doesn’t do his share that’s up to other team members to point out.  Don’t attack.  They think he’s wounded — let them deal with him.

The fact:  People on any team don’t really do the same amount of work.  There are always gunners — those who take the lead and do the work — and slackers.  Keep careful written records of your contributions.  It’s good to be seen taking notes at the meetings.  Next time, understand that teams are an artificial construct and all you need do is appear engaged.

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