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How to maintain professionalism during disagreements?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community8 months ago

I am consistently impressed by the professionalism and compassion demonstrated by the founders and contributors of Taro. Consequently, I find this forum to be the ideal place to seek advice on this matter.

Occasionally, while collaborating with others, I get myself into a disagreement and becoming frustrated with my own behavior. Regardless of who is at fault, I would greatly appreciate any guidance on how to cultivate compassion and maintain professionalism in situations where personal or professional differences may cause tension. How can one effectively navigate such scenarios without allowing these differences to become an obstacle?



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    Senior Software Engineer and Career Coach
    8 months ago

    This is a fantastic question! I have a few thoughts:

    First, let me just start by saying I totally get where you're coming from. In my first job, I ended up having a time where my manager needed to get me and another coworker into a room because we were constantly not seeing eye-to-eye. And we needed to hash it out with him there. It was not a great time.

    From that and other experiences, here's what I've learned:

    1. Fix the problem before it begins. Oftentimes, you can feel a sense of tension building between you and another coworker. If you feel that, try to find ways to lower that tension and build a relationship of greater compassion. For example, you can lightly bring up things in a recurring 1-1 with that person before it spirals into a barrage of things that have built up over the past few months. Or you can catch yourself and find other ways to ensure a good relationship.
    2. Understand that anger / frustration is almost never the answer, so it's in your best interest to think of alternatives--at least when speaking directly with that person. It's ok to let out frustration to others such as a friend, mentor, or coach. But don't show that to the person you're disagreeing with. Let's say you are frustrated with someone else because they don't code review your code often. You'd probably see a better result empathizing with the fact that they're probably very busy and wondering if there's any way you can help them out (assuming you see that they are busy) instead of expressing your frustration for them taking long to code review your PRs.
    3. Understand that sometimes there isn't much you can do to change others, so be okay with agreeing to disagree. Sometimes you just won't see eye-to-eye with people. And that's ok. Just be respectful about it, acknowledge their points, but agree to disagree.

    Lastly, here's a copy-paste of the bullets I refer to when I get in a disagreement to help me stay level-headed.

    If someone disagrees with you, the first instinct should not be to show why they are wrong but to understand why they disagree.


    1. Try to bring the conversation into zoom instead of over text. This makes it easier to get an understanding for each other.
    2. Approach the discussion with an open mind and understand why they disagree.
    3. Repeat back to them their point to make sure you’re on the same page.
    4. Weigh the pros and cons, and evaluate what makes sense as a step forward.
    5. Consider other potential options that take both sides into account
    6. If a stalemate occurs, call it out and bring in a 3rd party like the rest of the team. At this point, I would try to collaborate with the person on a pros & cons doc that describes both options to bring to the team.

    If you found my answer helpful, I'd sincerely appreciate a follow/connect on LinkedIn! I'm working on building up my network and would love your help. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordancutler1/

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    Senior Software Engineer at IBM
    8 months ago

    What's been shared here is huge so far. Having respect for others is great. There's also coworkers you can share frustrations with depending and see if there's something more cultural at play. Work with others to make sure that frustrations are addressed privately and bring them up in a public setting as needed for constructive use. I'm shifting into an area where there's a lot of discontent about process, but we started to detract/derail the conversation, so I pulled them aside and said let's handle it privately and bring in others moving forward as needed, so we don't spread the negativity too much. In your case though, a simple disagreement is usually just something easy to resolve, recurring likely meaning something cultural at play. I'm having to work on those as well to make sure that everyone else can work together. Nobody's at fault, sometimes policy, culture, or even different experiences have drastically different impacts on people's mental states and behaviors.

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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    I love the empathy and thoughtfulness behind this question! First, I recommend the video I made in my Effective Communication series about this very topic: Effective Communication Guide [Part 4] - Resolving Disagreements

    Jordan and Brad gave wonderful answers around upholding respect, doing deep listening, and striving to understand the other perspective. Adding on to those principles (which are 110% correct!), I actually have another tactic: Try to tear down your own argument. You can even turn it into a game:

    • Debate yourself in the mirror.
    • Submit your own proposal as a doc to yourself while pretending to be the other person. From there, write down counterpoints to each of your own points within the doc.

    By effectively playing Devil's Advocate against yourself, this will really force you to put yourself in the other person's shoes.

    Another important concept here is to initially assume good intent:

    • People in tech are generally pretty smart and trying to do what they genuinely think will make things better.
    • I have rarely met someone who was actively striving to do the wrong thing (from their own perspective).
    • When you truly champion this idea, it's much harder to show any hostility that makes you frustrated with yourself or feel embarrassed about your own behavior in the future.

    Of course, it's possible that people don't have good intent. If you truly believe that most, if not all, people around you know that something is wrong, just don't care, and are hammering it through anyways, you probably need to find a better team 😛

    All that being said, the most proactive thing to do with these heated situations is to prevent them from happening in the first place by having excellent rapport and trust with all your teammates. We gave an entire masterclass around how to do just that: [Masterclass] How To Build Deep Relationships Quickly In Tech