7. Be Prepared to Escalate: Despite your best efforts, your direct confrontation may not be productive. Let the person know that while you prefer to resolve matters privately with him or her, you may be compelled to escalate the problem to higher-ups or to Human Resources. This is where things can really get awkward.
8. Escalate to Boss or Human Resources: Most organizations prefer that you escalate work-relationship issues to your direct boss. The hazard here is that the boss may be unwilling or unskilled at dealing with relationship matters. Give the boss your view as objectively, factually, and unemotionally as possible. Focus on the work consequences of the ongoing troublesome behavior. If the boss elects to do nothing meaningful, you can then consider going up a level or going to Human Resources for assistance. But best of luck; addressing the situation this way had better be worth the organizational risk.
What if the Boss Is the Problem?
If you reflected on the study by Professor Kusy, it's likely your boss is not aware — or at least not fully aware — of how his or her behavior is affecting you and your work. While the situation calls for extreme tact and professionalism, you should approach your "troublesome" boss as you would a co-worker. The same logic and sequence of steps apply. If you were the boss, wouldn't you want to hear from subordinates who want to have a better work relationship and be more productive?
If the relationship with your boss is beyond the self-help phase and has become irreconcilable, it may be time to begin discussing a transfer with the boss or Human Resources. Not all troublesome work relations can be repaired, but you really don't have much to lose by trying.
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