Create your balance. Design your life.

Ask Madeleine Vol. 16: Telecommuting and Solving Conflict

Need a fresh perspective? Ask Madeleine.  She’s four and has no problem telling you exactly what to do.  Send in your questions–comment below, use the contact link, post them on our Facebook page, or email us at advice @

What’s the best way to get telecommuters to work together on a project?

Madeleine: Call them.  Or you can do texting.

Stinky Old Mom: Currently, 20-30 million Americans work from home at least once a week.  Approximately 2.5% of the employee workforce (excluding self-employed) consider their home their primary workplace.  Although telecommuting can give you more time to handle your family life, 33% of telecommuters feel alienated and 35%  feel like they cannot make career connections.

People who work from a distance have to battle being “out of sight, out of mind.”  It is important to grab opportunities to have face to face interaction and weekly check-in meetings.  “Water cooler” talk might slow down productivity, but it can really help build personal connections and a team mentality.  In addition to Madeleine’s fabulous recommendations, you can also employ video chats with Skype or Google Hangouts.

Adding flexibility to your schedule or telecommuting a few days of the week can greatly increase work life balance satisfaction.  Read this article about how you can negotiate a flexible schedule for yourself.

How should you handle a situation when two people are fighting over the same thing?

Madeleine:  You take a deep breath and count to four.  Calm them down by putting your hands out like this [puts arms out to each side, palms facing out] and saying, “Calm down!”  If they are still fighting, I would take the toy away. But, if two ants were fighting over a peanut, you could just break the peanut in half.

Stinky Old Mom:  She has a future in conflict resolution, what can I say?!  When it comes to conflict in the work place, Madeleine seems to understand one major aspect–the importance of dealing with calm individuals.  This can be a difficult task.  It is perfectly acceptable to ask both parties to get a control over their emotions, and begin/resume a meeting when all parties can speak calmly.  It is also acceptable to ask someone who is yelling at you to calm down.

Depending on the result you are aiming for, such as actually getting the person to calm down, you might not want to use the phrase “calm down.”  As a passionate person, with a louder-than-most voice, I have been on the receiving end of this advice.  It actually makes me more upset.  Sometimes, it is helpful for the person who is more calm to take a moment.  A simple pause (of silence), a shift in tone, and breath can create enough space for the other person to also breathe.  Try using silence as a means to communicate the need for calm rather than demanding it.


One comment

  1. How many times have you seen a situation where someone is worked up and someone tells them to calm down and they scream, “I AM CALM!!!” Yeah, that doesn’t really work, haha.

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