Navigating Workplace Conflict

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It is 9:30 am. Your morning run didn’t quite clear your head like it usually does. Comments your spouse made last night, your mother bemoaning how you forgot about her and home repair costs run wildly through your mind.

At least, you have your morning coffee. Your morning coffee will surely do the trick. Just as you sit down, let out a deep exhale and begin to sip your coffee—you look up to see your eager fawn of an admin hovering at your office door almost hysterical.

“It’s too early for this. It’s too early for anything to have happened…”, you think to yourself.

Without taking a sip of your coffee, you signal your admin to come in.

“What’s on your mind? You look distraught,” you note.

That’s all it took for the flood gates to break open and for everything to pour out. Your mind is racing to keep up, to figure out which parts to respond to and why the hell your Friday morning is beginning like this.

A sympathetic sigh escapes your lips, which signals your admin to continue letting out all grievances.  As you begin to get lost in thought about all the other things you must do today—presentations, client meetings and another terrible networking event this evening—a gust of cold air shakes you out of your trance.

No; the air did not suddenly turn on. It’s just her. The coworker who believes in some alternate reality where she’s your superior and can boss you around. If privilege and entitlement were an audible sound, it would be her voice. Not feeling up to the coldness in the room, your admin scurries away, still in tears.

Your coworker takes this as a cue to go down her list of demands—what she wants you to do to help her project/client/casework/whatever. While she’s not your “boss” and you do not report to her, she has  much more social capital than you do. She’s already sabotaged your efforts more than once and yields enough power to turn the office tides against you.

What do you do next? How do you handle your coworker and your admin’s “needs”?


Join our group of mid/senior level Afro-professionals Thursday, August 31st at 6:30 pm at the entrancing Belle Isle Aquarium. We’re tackling what workplace conflicts set us off and how we respond as leaders and professionals.  It’s a 5-course dinner and discussion led by an expert workplace conflict mediator.


Tickets are limited. Purchase yours right now at:,

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