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Jan 10, 2020 in 

Conflict Resolution

In this article, you can learn tips for conflict resolution to help maintain professionalism with difficult people.

Taija Pryor


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For those starting a new semester, you may have already looked up your professors on “rate my professor” to get an idea about what you’ve gotten yourself into. Some of you may be dealing with a difficult supervisor, or have a bad relationship with said professors because of some issues that may have occurred (or will occur this semester). If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone.

As a new mom and a University student, I have faced many challenges with maintaining a professional relationship while advocating for my rights, and having to fight for grades and opportunities I earned that were threatened due to my having a child. Luckily, I have learned a lot from those experiences and have been able to maintain my professional relationships thus far.

My first tip in dealing with difficult people/supervisors is to avoid confronting an issue in the moment. Doing so may cause the receiving party to feel attacked and they may become defensive. Instead, try writing down your frustrations and concerns, or find someone to vent to so you are able to approach the next step with a clear mind.

The next thing I suggest is making an itemized list (or just write down what was frustrating for you) so you can address the sections of the issue/s that can actually be dealt with. This will keep you from going after an individual for things that are not related to the issue/s while also maintaining professional respect. After making the list, it may be helpful to look at the course syllabus, or any handbook or organization policies that may help you navigate your issue/s. Being able to provide supporting documents in your favor may ensure a better outcome, however in contrast doing your research may also help you navigate validity and further steps to the issue/s at hand.

Next, email the individual to schedule a time to meet so you can discuss the issue/s. It is helpful to use “I” statements such as “I feel” to express what you took from the experience. This will help you navigate a constructive conversation to reach possible solutions.

If these steps are not helpful and there is no resolution, my next advice is to repeat the same steps with a supervisor who has more authority over the situation. Remember to always maintain professional demeanor, how you handle these situations will speak a lot to your professionalism, so try not to let conflict push you to the edge.

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