Climbing the Ladder with Grace: A ‘Game of Thrones’ Approach to Conflict Resolution

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Game Of Thrones Approach To Office Conflict Resolution - Eminent SEO
A large majority of the violence that takes place during HBO’s mega-hit “Game of Thrones” does not revolve around armies of the undead or wars of succession. In reality, most of the drama that drives the show has less to do with grand battles between good and evil and more to do with people not getting along at work.

Take the early adventures of fan favorite Jon Snow, now King in the North but once an entry level employee at The Wall. It was Jon’s ability to rally his fellow new hires that caught the eye of the C-Suite and eventually catapulted him into management. Ultimately, Jon envisioned a different direction for the company than his board of directors did, and he was unceremoniously let go:

Jon Snow Game of Thrones SnowEven in an organization headquartered on a giant wall that is meant to protect all of humanity from a daunting, supernatural threat, the people working there still have time to bicker and be petty with one another. So it’s not that surprising (or a big deal) if you don’t like everybody at work. Your only responsibility is to be civil, play well with others and not let your disagreements become a distraction.

Here’s a few tips on how to do that. We’ll use the very worst that “Game of Thrones” has to offer as examples of co-workers you can’t stand.

The Waif aka The One-Upper

The Waif Game Of ThronesSeasons 5 and 6 of Thrones saw Arya accept an internship in Braavos with The Faceless Men, where she had to work directly under a sour, dour young woman known only as The Waif. Ostensibly, The Waif was assigned to watch over Arya’s assassin training and act as a mentor. Instead, she routinely talked down to Arya about her performance and beat her up after work.

As Arya got better at her job, The Waif began to bug out. Her passive-aggressive behavior suggests that her whole demeaning attitude is deeply rooted in insecurity. This is the case for most co-workers who seem obsessed with proving their superiority to everyone around them. Their go-to solution for puffing themselves up is bringing other people down.

How Do I Deal with The One-Upper?

The best way to resolve conflict with The One-Upper is to avoid playing their game. If they feel the need to show you up in a conversation or in a meeting, just ignore it and power through.

The more you feed into their cycle, the more you come off looking like the smaller person. Everybody knows The One-Upper can’t help themselves. You demonstrate your professionalism by not letting their self-promotional ways affect your demeanor. That’s a good look, even for an organization called The Faceless Men.

Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish aka The Hater

Littlefinger Baelish Game Of ThronesIf you’re a fan of the show, you were probably waiting to see the enigmatic Littlefinger make an appearance on this list. The All-Star schemer isn’t just on this list because he likes to play politics, however. He represents that co-worker who can’t help interfere when he sees relationships develop without him.

During season 7, Petyr impulsively begins to attack the burgeoning mutual respect formed between the recently reunited sisters Sansa and Arya Stark. After all, any consolidation of power that doesn’t involve him needs to be undermined. Around the office, The Hater can be found popping into your cubicle for a quick chat that starts something like this:

“I’ve noticed you’ve been talking to the boss a lot…”

“I didn’t think you’d have much in common with Karen…”

“Were you having lunch with Jason? Huh…”

Co-workers who trade in these kinds of non-secrets are frustrating to work with because the bonds they see as a threat are actually great for your organization. This is another example of a co-worker whose insecurities drive counterproductive, unprofessional behavior around the office.

How Do I Deal with The Hater?

Just keep doing what you’re doing. The best way to resolve conflict with The Hater at work is to continue to develop the bonds you have that are real. If necessary, emphasize to your co-worker that you’d like to limit your conversation to matters directly related to your work. Start logging incidents and report the behavior to your manager if the behavior continues.

Theon Greyjoy aka The Apology

Theon Grayjoy Floating Game Of ThronesOver seven whole seasons of Thrones, Theon has proven time and time again that for every occasion, he will find a way to avoid rising to it. Whether it’s crumbling under the pressure of leadership after a poorly executed coup or abandoning his sister on the field of battle, Theon is a constant screw-up with as many excuses and apologies as there are swords in the Iron Throne.

That might be a little harsh. Theon finally seems to be coming around just in time for season 8. Regardless, he gives us a distinct example of a co-worker who consistently drops the ball during collaborative projects. What can be even more frustrating than these individuals’ inability to come through in the clutch is their long list of excuses for why they couldn’t have been successful in the first place.

How Do I Deal with The Apologizer?

The Apology’s self-pitying behavior wouldn’t be so bad if the solution to the problem wasn’t to affirm them as much as possible. It’s hard to be in the mood to keep supporting a co-worker who constantly lets you down, but confronting them too directly may only make it harder to build their confidence the next time you need to rely on their expertise.

Instead, continue to assert that they are a capable contributor to the team and cross your fingers. Maybe also assign them fewer vital tasks.

Samwell Tarly aka The Two-Face

Samwell Tharly Game Of ThronesSam started off as Jon’s pudgy co-worker at The Wall, but these days he’s defeating ancient snow demons, curing diseases and doing important work as a Westerosian history post-graduate. This all to say that Sam is quite the capable individual, even if his cherubic face and ho-hum demeanor might suggest otherwise.

Whether it’s sneaking peeks into The Citadel’s forbidden library or straight-up swiping the family sword from his jerk dad in the middle of the night, Sam has proven he will lie to your face and just do what he wants anyway – if that’s what it takes to get his way.

You may be having flashes of that time a co-worker agreed to your strategy in a meeting before they immediately proceeded to implement their own plan instead. Maybe you know a fellow employee who spoke poorly of you to a supervisor but acts like your pal at lunch. There are plenty of people like that in the workforce, and few of them have as heroic intentions as Sam.

How Do I Deal with The Two-Face?

This one’s tough because people who systematically lie are usually A) pretty good at it and B) know how to work the system. Accusing them of being dishonest straight up won’t work. They’ll claim miscommunication and that they’ll “try to do better” next time.

Instead, anticipate and plan around them. Take advice or input you get from The Two-Face with a grain of salt; get confirmation from fellow co-workers if necessary.

Rickon Stark aka The Guy Who Can’t Run in a Zig-Zag Pattern

You’d think that if your captor had told you to run across a big field to safety, you might suspect something was up. You’d think that running in a straight line is probably foolish, especially in an era where ranged weaponry is limited to arrows of various sizes. You’d think to occasionally change direction, perhaps multiple times, forming a sort of zig-zag pattern, as to protect yourself from any income projectiles.

You’d think that. I’d think that. Rickon didn’t think that. Rickon got shot by an arrow.

At the office, The Guy Who Can’t Run in a Zig-Zag Pattern is the employee who is unfortunately both underqualified for his position and can’t think outside the box enough to compensate. They’re probably great at paperwork? Hopefully.

How Do I Deal with a Non-Zig-Zagger?

I mean, this person is probably a nepotism hire in the first place. Not really much you can do except wait for them to screw up really, really badly. If they can’t figure out how to run in a zig-zag pattern, the problem will sort itself out sooner than you might expect.
Rickon Stark Running Game Of Thrones

M’Lording Your Manager

Most of this advice has revolved around managing peers who get on your nerves around the office. But what about your boss? In many cases, there isn’t much to do when you and your superiors have a personality clash. Mitigating your expectations and looking for ways to become essential to your boss are the most effective responses outside of finding another position.

Here are a few quick tips based on dealing with a frustrating supervisor, based on the show’s trio of kings from House Baratheon.

Stannis aka The Family Man

Stannis Baratheon Battle Game Of ThronesStannis would be a great boss if he didn’t let his family drama impact the workplace daily. Who can concentrate on winning a war of succession when the boss’ wife and girlfriend are having an awkward spat in the company kitchen? It’s just not a good way to do business.

Your best bet is to be as firm about setting boundaries as possible. Your boss knows he or she is not supposed to bring their personal life into the office; they just can’t help themselves. They can’t hold it against you for not wanting to deal with it either.

Robert aka The Old Buddy

Robert Baratheon King Game Of ThronesEddard Stark found himself in the unfortunate position of being the president of a company owned by his roommate from college, good ol’ Robert Baratheon. Working with friends or family can be a great opportunity, but also invites challenging work dynamics when personal feelings get in the way of the work. Robert could never bring himself to take advice from Eddard, so why empower him to make decisions?

If you find yourself in this type of position, your best bet is to be honest about your feelings. It’s either be open with them when you feel like the personal is interfering with the professional or suffer working in a toxic environment and threatening a friendship. Your friend-boss can’t have you beheaded, so relax and start a conversation.

Joffrey aka The Big Man

Joffrey Big Man King Clapping - Game Of ThronesWho could forget the short but spicy reign of boy-king Joffrey Baratheon? Prior to being poisoned at his own wedding, Joffers made a habit of having his political rivals murdered in front of their children and turning servants into pin cushions with his trusty crossbow. His famously thin skin also made it easy to get fired from a position at Westeros, LLC. Any perceived sleight could lead to a date with the executioner when Joffrey was CEO.

If you’ve got a boss who’s easily threatened and likes to take it out on subordinates, you probably know what it’s like to work for a Joffrey-type firsthand. The Big Man is only satisfied when his importance is on the top of everyone’s minds. Honestly, the only way to deal with these types of supervisors is to prove your usefulness. They’ll leave you alone if they think your success reflects positively on them.

You Win By Not Playing

At the end of the day, the best way to manage, respond and resolve your conflicts with co-workers is to avoid escalating the problem. You may have to swallow a bit of your pride, but that’s a small price to pay for a peaceful work environment.

Want more advice about managing difficult personalities around the office or other conflict-resolution tips? See our tips on curbing workplace incivility or bookmark our blog for several new updates every month.

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Remy Albillar

As a content writer at Eminent SEO, I specialize in producing high-quality copy for a long list of digital mediums, including websites, emails, blogs and social media. I got my career started right out of college producing SEO-driven content for a marketing agency based in Tucson, AZ. I’ve since worked as a copywriter within numerous industries. I’ve written the first half of a personal memoir and earned my master’s in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston, MA.

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This entry was posted in Business Strategy, Workplace and tagged .
Avatar for Remy Albillar

About Remy Albillar

As a content writer at Eminent SEO, I specialize in producing high-quality copy for a long list of digital mediums, including websites, emails, blogs and social media. I got my career started right out of college producing SEO-driven content for a marketing agency based in Tucson, AZ. I’ve since worked as a copywriter within numerous industries. I’ve written the first half of a personal memoir and earned my master’s in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston, MA.

8 thoughts on “Climbing the Ladder with Grace: A ‘Game of Thrones’ Approach to Conflict Resolution

  1. Avatar for Remy AlbillarAlice Trellakis

    Definitely a bunch of helpful advice here! Conflicts at work are not always easy to navigate. I like that you took other people’s perspective and the wide variety of personalities we can come across. Hopefully the office environment won’t be as dangerous as the one in Game of Thrones.

  2. Avatar for Remy AlbillarJachai DeJesus

    I just started watching Game of Thrones and I loved reading the comparison between the workplace and the show. Coining the characters as different personalities on the job was a great idea! I really enjoyed reading this; so creative!

    1. Avatar for Remy AlbillarChris Weatherall

      After season 2 I bailed on Game of Thrones and it’s been all uphill for that show ever since. I’m just going to wait it out until the series is done before picking it up again so that I don’t unnaturally jinx anything.

  3. Avatar for Remy AlbillarCassie Mcginess

    I’ve never watched Game of Thrones but I’ve heard it was a pretty good show! The blog however, hits a lot of points with what most deal with at work. It’s better to have a calm environment then having high friction. Great article!

  4. Avatar for Remy AlbillarKirstin

    Good insight – also makes me rethink my not watching GOT. I can relate to many of these personalities both in the workplace and out. Lots of good tips for dealing with conflict, with just enough humor to make it memorable, too.

  5. Avatar for Remy

    There is nothing bad I can say about this article. A must read post for all out there! Very helpful for many businesses out there.

    1. Avatar for Remy AlbillarChris Weatherall

      So basically ByDomino doesn’t have one Troll-ish bone! On the other hand I could ask about the One Upper/Super Hater. The one who gets to know you in a peaceful manner in order to find a weakness to exploit at inopportune times. They keep you on your toes wondering which day is the next “It’s A Trap” day on a client call or in front of a superior. At some point this becomes unbearable and choking co-workers isn’t allowed outside of the North Korean dictatorial residence. At the end of the day do you think its worth quitting a job because of being annoyed? You know inside that’s what the 17 Upper/Super Hater wants you to do.

  6. Avatar for Remy Albillarcherry mccarthy

    This entry was super helpful! Great comparisons and resolution other than slapping the taste out of someone’s mouth. Thanks for posting!


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