How to win (or graciously lose) a turf war at work

You assumed you were in charge but a peer has made the same assumption – what to do?

Even if you and your peer are vying for the same leadership position, you don’t have to be mortal enemies. Photograph: iStock

Even if you and your peer are vying for the same leadership position, you don’t have to be mortal enemies. Photograph: iStock

 

You’re working on a cross-functional initiative and have assumed you’re in charge, but it seems your counterpart from another team has made the same assumption. And now you’re in the middle of a turf war. How do you navigate the situation?

To handle this sort of problem, follow these principles:

1 Check your mindset: Anger doesn’t always work. Go in with a conciliatory attitude instead. How can everyone take something satisfying away?

2 Focus on the larger goal: Even if you and your peer are vying for the same leadership position, you don’t have to be mortal enemies. Concentrating on a common goal will keep you out of the morass of personal jabs.

3 Do your research: It may be possible that one of you is actually supposed to be in charge. Before you take your colleague to task for stepping on your toes, ask your boss or colleagues.

4 Problem-solve with your counterpart: If your research doesn’t turn up a satisfying answer, schedule a time to meet your rival and discuss how to disentangle the responsibilities. During the meeting, don’t dive right in to the issues; start by agreeing on the length of your talk or the criteria you’ll use.

5 Control your emotions: Remain calm throughout the discussion: You’re unlikely to get to a resolution if you yell. If the other person starts to get hot under the collar, don’t react.

6 Decide if it’s worth it: If you are unable to come to an agreement, you have to decide whether continuing to fight this battle is worth it. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of demanding the leadership role by involving your managers or gracefully ceding it to your counterpart.

– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017