Dealing with a Difficult Colleague from a Department with a Poor History

This is an influence example of overcoming poor departmental history and negative feelings making it very difficult to collaborate on what was supposed to be a joint project. Note the effort to understand and deal with the feelings of the most “difficult” person from one department, and the positive impact).

As reported by the head of training:

We were working on a technology rollout and there was a lot of tension between HR and Payroll to the point that people within the VP of HR’s office were crying, etc. It seemed like Payroll was trying to control and take over the HR project. Nothing changed much through the course of the project despite numerous discussions with leadership – basically people just tried to avoid each other as much as possible. There was a secondary rollout done a year later and I had to partner closely with the Payroll person everyone was having trouble with. I acknowledged her needs and our common goal and asked how she’d like to work together to accomplish it.

I said to her, “I know the first rollout didn’t go as we’d all hoped in terms of how everyone worked together. I completely understand why you’re interested in being involved in all pieces of the project – you want it to turn out as well as it possibly can – and luckily, I feel the same way. I want to make sure our partnership is productive. I know it’s hard to delegate and relinquish control to others when you don’t know if you can trust them to do the best job. I’m confident that I have the competence to do my part, and want to understand what you need in order to believe that as well. I’ve heard you express concern about how the training materials will turn out. How about I start to draft it, and at the end of the day, I’ll send what I have? This way, you can provide feedback before it gets too developed. After we do that for a few days, we can review whether you still need to be looped in that frequently.”

It worked! And after two days, she was happy to just see a fairly final product. (She was new as the project started so my only experience with her was through the botched project.)