How to Pick Your Battles and Win

Long-winded admin procedures. An eat-at-your-desk lunch culture. A questionably-promoted boss. That guy with consistently crappy ideas.

You can’t tackle every problem that personally irks you at work.

There are elements of all workplaces that rub people the wrong way, but the ones you dig in and fight against need to be chosen very carefully.

Get it wrong and you’ll either end up angrier or out of favour, or worst case scenario, out of a job.

So calm that temper and pick fights worth winning. Here’s how.

  1. Take a step back

The worst thing you can do is pick a fight while you’re all worked up, so take a deep breath to calm your emotions.

Now, weigh up whether the issue’s been overblown up in your own head or being driven by a personal dislike for someone or something. If so, it’s probably a fight best left alone.

If you can rationally say there’s a bigger workplace issue that needs addressing, it’s more likely to be a fight worth picking.

  1. Plan the attack

You need to figure out a solution that both you and the business will benefit from, for two reasons.

One, there’s no point bitching about someone or something without offering a solution, and two, if you don’t benefit from that solution, there’s no point sticking your neck out.

So take some time to consider what needs to be changed before diving in.

  1. Get the right person in the ring

While the problem might rattle your cage, and you have a solution to it, are you the right person to address it?

It might feel like the right thing to do, but stirring a pot that isn’t yours will paint you in a really bad light, so before fetching your spoon figure out whether it’s in your area of authority.

If not, warm-up the shoulders of the person who should be in the ring.

  1. Punch hard

You’ve taken the emotion out of the situation, got a solution that benefits both you and the business and are confident it’s your place to sink the boot in.

Now, gather your thoughts, book in some time with the relevant people and clearly articulate what needs to be addressed.

Problems get bigger when you let them lie, so pick your battles and punch hard.

Image: Kristin Wall, via Flickr