Interpersonal disagreements happen all the time in the workplace, especially in high-stress environments like project management. But when it’s your manager who’s got a problem with you, it can seem like the end of the world. Suddenly you get the cold shoulder, a crappy evaluation, or more menial tasks—or none at all! Your work becomes a living hell, and it seems like you’re only options are to quit, or grin and bear it.
Not true! It doesn’t have to be that way! Here’s what you should be doing instead:
Check That it’s Real
First off, are you really being picked on? Or is it just your imagination? Is your project manager just naturally prickly? Watch him interact with other people and see the difference/similarities. Better yet, ask a friend for his opinion and see if he sees it the same way.
Look Inward, Then Outward
Before you confront him or march to HR, ask yourself: am I doing something to cause this situation? How is your performance at work? Did you say or do something to offend him personally? If you can find the cause and correct it on your own, it will keep the incident low-key and reflect better on you.
Keep it Between the Two of You
It’s best not to make a public issue of this until you’re absolutely sure what’s going on. Even if you have a pretty good idea of the cause, it’s always best to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. If you can work yourself up to it, speak to him in private (whether in person or in email) and bring up the issue. Don’t involve anyone else (except maybe for getting neutral opinions) unless your situation demands outside intervention.
Don’t Make it About You
It sounds like conflicting advice since you’re the one feeling pressured and victimized. But too much emotion can spin the conversation out of control and make things even worse. Don’t accuse me. Explain what particular instances or behaviors are making you feel uncomfortable and why. Give your project manager an opportunity to explain his points. For all you know, he might not know that he’s making you feel this way. In this case, he’ll apologize and the air will be clear.
If your project manager really does have a problem with you, ask what you can do to correct it and how you can work smoothly together moving forward. If what he’s asking isn’t possible, discuss it with him and try to come up with alternatives.
Project managers aren’t the only ones who need to have good social skills. Team members need to be able to relate well with their co-workers and be wise enough to solve social problems on their own, especially if the person who’s supposed to be helping them is part of the problem. You can’t make everybody happy all the time, but if you can work out your disagreements like adults, then your team will be able to function as one happy family.