Leadership in Action: Rebalancing responsibility with co-workers
Updated: Dec 11, 2018
"Crafted Leadership in Action" highlights examples from the Architecture of Inspiring Leaders in professional contexts.
From our friend and inspiring leader, Jami Dorsey of VolkBell, an employee benefits and insurance firm:
The Issue: I had a struggle with a coworker. I experienced her as continually overstepping her boundaries into my areas of responsibility. She would initiate work on projects that fell under my domain, question my timelines, and reach out to vendors without checking with me first. I didn’t directly address the situation with her until I was ready to blow and considered quitting. When I did confront her, I was reactive, not open to her feedback, and told her she needed to quit butting in and doing my job. The conversation became heated and left us with hurt feelings but no resolution. Our boss had to step in to calm the waters.
The Shift Move: I realized that I needed to use healthy responsibility and become curious about how I was creating the situation, rather than making my co-worker wrong for creating the situation. I chose to look at why I was being triggered by her behaviors. From that place of willingness, which required me to be vulnerable, I realized I had issues around being "good enough," being valued and feeling trusted. When my colleague stepped in and took over duties in my sphere of responsibility, I felt she was in effect saying, Jami is not capable and/or cannot be trusted to get the job done. I also felt she wasn't respecting my contributions to the situation. Realizing these were my own issues, I sat down with my co-worker and let her know I was creating a story that she didn’t trust me and didn’t respect my work. I owned that I used that story to feed my own insecurities and to make her wrong. I then shared with her what I appreciated about her and committed to being honest with her in the future when I felt triggered by her behavior. I also committed to letting her know what I needed as a teammate and coworker.
Result: The impact was actually much greater than I imagined it would be. My actions broke down walls between us and created trust between us. We are now able to communicate with more clarity and can confront each other if something isn’t going right. The benefit to our organization is that we are authentic examples of how, through conscious communication and healthy responsibility, two people who once struggled to work together now make a very effective and efficient team. By not “attacking” the other person and owning up to my part in the issue, I create more space for communication and openness to changing work relationship patterns that once felt impossible to change.
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