The workplace consists of an eclectic mix of people from all different walks of life, with different beliefs and opinions. Everyone is thrown together for around eight hours a day in a pressurised working environment, so it’s little wonder there’s the odd disagreement between co-workers.
Being in recruitment we hear it time and time again that people look to leave their current employer because of a conflict with another colleague and whilst you can’t always avoid workplace conflict, you can learn how best to deal with it.
Here are a few top tips to get you started:
Jump on Potential Problems Early
Don’t ignore potential problems, they won’t always go away on their own. If you feel there’s trouble brewing try to address the issue early on. Leaving bad feelings to fester will just make matters worse.
Pinpoint the Source of The Tension
If you aren’t getting along with a particular colleague aim to pinpoint the source of the tension. Is the conflict based upon professional differences? Perhaps, you fundamentally disagree on how to tackle a project, or you feel your co-worker is not pulling their weight, casing your team to underperform.
Alternatively, you might not gel well due to personal differences. This could be due to gender, ethnicity, social economic status, political views or religious background. Or maybe it could just be there’s a clash of personalities. Try to get to the bottom of why you don’t get along.
Keep It in Perspective
People fall out, it’s a fact of life. They also make up — that’s a fact of life too! An argument shouldn’t be the end of the world. The important thing is to keep things in perspective. Ask yourself how important the issue will be in a few days, a few weeks, a few months, a few years? Each day brings a new set of challenges and opportunities so don’t dwell on minor disagreements and blow them up out of all proportion.
Things won’t always go your way. If you’re not getting along with someone or don’t agree with a decision that’s been made, you don’t need to let all of your co-workers know how disgruntled you are. It can be hard to stay positive if you feel wronged, but constantly moaning is just going to get you a reputation for being a negative person — and that won’t do much for your image (or chances of promotion).
Understand That You Might Be Part of The Problem
This is a tricky one, but have you stopped to consider that you might be at fault? You might have upset your co-worker without realising. Are you inclined to say exactly what you think or known for liking to take the lead? Perhaps you have trodden on someone’s toes or left them feeling inadequate.
Think about the circumstances surrounding the conflict. If you suspect you might be in the wrong (it’s hard to put your hands up and admit to that), you could remedy the situation by simply apologising.
Find a Resolution
Can you do anything to resolve the issue? Would it help to sit down with your co-worker and talk things through? If you plan on tackling your colleague in a bid to get to the route of the problem you will need to handle the situation carefully.
First off, find a quiet space where you can sit down together — you don’t need well-meaning colleagues listening in or making comments. You will also need to remain calm and patient, you might hear things you don’t like or disagree with — getting into heated argument will not help matters. Compromise is key here, if you can’t find a way forward then at least agree to be civil and forge a respectful working relationship.
Get Some Support
Can’t tackle the problem alone? Perhaps you have tried speaking to your co-worker to iron out your differences but you’re struggling to move forward. Or maybe you feel intimidated by your colleague and don’t feel comfortable tackling the issue on your own.
It might help you to keep a diary outlining key events and flashpoints. This will provide you with clarity should you need to approach your supervisor to request support. It’s in your supervisor’s interests to resolve workplace conflict, and they will be able to mediate in a bid to sort out the problem. But what if it’s your supervisor that’s the problem?
Conflict with senior colleagues can be tricky to resolve. You might need to go to someone higher up in the chain of command, or alternatively go to Human Resources (just remember HR have procedures in place, so an informal chat could turn into formal complaint). However, if you feel you are being unfairly treated you do need to seek advice.
Life Is Just Too Short!
You can’t like everyone you meet, and everyone you meet won’t necessarily like you.
Whatever the cause of the tension, you need to remember that this is work — you don’t need to be best buddies, but you do need to find a way to co-exist.