Technical Communication Poll: Handling Conflict Over Your Work

Technical Communication Poll - CollisionAs much as we would all like to have perfect relationships with all of our colleagues, superiors, and clients,  the real world just never seems to work that way. Sometimes they just don’t agree with, or like the work you’re producing… which can cause a collision between worlds that makes last week’s meteor strike look like a light show.  Whether the problem someone has is based in reality (let’s face it, we all screw up from time to time), or not is beside the point. That conflict creates some sort of disruption to your workflow that you need to address. And that brings us to the subject of this week’s technical communication poll.  What tactics do you use to respond when someone has a problem with your work?

Personality types (introverts and extroverts handle conflict differently), experience, current workload, the nature of the issue, and even corporate culture can drive how we react, prioritize and respond to conflict surrounding our work. In much the same way as we prioritize the severity and impact of issues we uncover during testing, we have to prioritize the speed and kind of response if the boss, a teammate or a stakeholder just thinks we’ve produced something unsatisfactory.  What qualifies as a problem that’s mission-critical that requires you to drop everything to investigate and resolve?  Which people are you likely to put off responding to?  How do you determine if  the issue even warrants a response other than an acknowledgement?

Part of everyone’s professional reputation relies to some extent on how they handle conflict and criticism. And some of the technical writing stereotypes (reclusive, hypersensitive, overly defensive, nit-picking… choose your flaw) probably have their basis in how we respond to and resolve issues that others have with our work.  Please share with us your experiences and tactics in handling these kinds of issues.  Feel free to post a comment below, or if you want to build an in-depth conversation, jump on over to the email discussion list, and start or continue a thread.

When someone is upset with your work, what tactics do you use in response?

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11 years ago

“Aknowledge their concern without making a commitment” sounds good. It also depends hugely on wether the criticism is deserved or not. I’m willing to admit when my performance has been subpar, and I’ll fix whatever has to be fixed, but I will defend myself when I think i’m being wrongfully criticised. Always apologyzing and admitting to mistakes you haven’t made makes you the victim of choice for the office bullies, in my experience.

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