Tackle workplace conflict with wisdom and grace

MayKao Hang
Wilder Foundation president MayKao Hang, left, visits with people attending an informal breakfast where participants talked about ways to increase workplace diversity Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at the Wilder Foundation in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson for MPR News 2013

A happy work life can make for a happy life all around. MPR News Host Kerri Miller spoke with two workplace-advice columnists about how to make the most out of careers.

Rob Walker writes the column "Workologist" in The New York Times and Alison Green writes the Ask A Manager column for The Cut. Below is some of their advice.

To those mid-career people struggling with feeling fulfilled

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AG: "People look to work as a source of fulfillment more than they should. There's a narrative in America we sell to people that work should always be fulfilling and if it's not, you have somehow failed professionally. And I don't think that's true. There's a lot of liberation in the idea that work doesn't have to always be a source of emotional satisfaction. The vast majority of the world's population doesn't work for emotional fulfillment. They work for money because they have to."

RW: "This is the letter I get most often ... It can help to think about what small change you could make in the workplace that would just make your day to day a little bit better and help you maybe appreciate what you've got ... There are many other ways to fulfill your potential as a human being."

To the person working with someone who has a leg up

A caller said that he worked close with the boss' son and was irritated by the son's hour-long lunch breaks and other perks.

AG: "One thing to keep in mind is that coworker is probably building a different kind of reputation for himself than the caller his. At some point if he wants to move on to another job he might not have the stellar, glowing reputation that's going to make that really easy."

RW: "The thing you have to focus on isn't what's irritating but what's an actual problem and try to distinguish between those two things."

On being friends with people in the workplace

RW: "I try to tell people to lower their expectations on the importance of being pals with everyone that they work with, that really you just need to peacefully coexist. That urge to be close to people is what leads to problems and especially when you get to the social media realm. Just don't friend your coworkers on social media."

Use the audio player above to hear more from Rob and Alison.