Not all conflicts are unhealthy posted on 13 April 2024

I recently caught up with an old coworker. While I don’t remember all the details on what they were working on, I remember two things

  • We had a lot conflicts/tensions because of our responsibilities and how product, legal and other aspects of the business were pulling us in different directions
  • It was a pleasure working with them – even with the escalations. This is what I ultimately remember from working with them.

This is where you can have conflicts with coworkers, but these should never be personal. You work in the same company so the problem is something you both should figure out how to tackle. Sometimes they happen because the balance you have to achieve is tough – you have to perform difficult trade offs. This is nobody’s fault (besides maybe leadership, but the conflicts might exist just because of the industry/space you are working in).

So work with people when conflicts happen, position everyone involved on the same side trying to solve the problem. If you can’t agree on a solution, work with your coworkers to paint a fair picture of the problem and escalate to your common leadership.

It also helps to remember that:

  • People are trying their best in non toxic environments – don’t assume evil intent by default
  • What’s best for the company might not be what’s best for your team mission/charter. For example that’s why Legal doesn’t run a company but a CEO – things don’t always go their way, sometimes the risks are worth taking
  • It’s ultimately a job and people matter more than companies. I personally don’t remember many technical details about projects I worked at Google, but I still vividly remember the people I enjoyed working with.

Last but not least, if you worked with me in the past and had conflicts (e.g. because of privacy restrictions that I used to be responsible for), please don’t assume I didn’t enjoy working with you :)

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