It happens to everyone. For some reason you had a conflict with a coworker. Someone was having a bad day or took offense. It was probably a small thing, but it got out of control, and now there is this workplace tension. Sometimes it resolves itself through a joke or light hearted comment from one or the other. Other times it just passes without further incident. But occasionally it gets worse—it takes on a life of its own. The next thing you know you can hardly work together. You spend at least 25% of your time at work so you need to nip this thing in the bud!
In his article 5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict, Mike Myatt writes, “While conflict is a normal part of any social and organizational setting, the challenge of conflict lies in how one chooses to deal with it. Concealed, avoided or otherwise ignored, conflict will likely fester only to grow into resentment, create withdrawal or cause factional infighting within an organization.”
You said it! So now what? We’ve compiled our own five strategies to guide you in the right direction towards resolving workplace tension.
- Keep an Open Mind: Take a deep breath and think about the other person. Was it just a bad day? Or do they have a different point of view? Can you see where he or she is coming from? If you understand the other person’s perspective then perhaps you can find some common ground.
- Make the First Move: Someone has to make the first move. It might as well be you. We are all uncomfortable with confrontation, but look at this as an opportunity to grow and hopefully build a stronger relationship with your coworker. Reach out and ask if the other person has time to chat, go for coffee, or have a drink after work. Just the act initiating forward movement can sometimes be enough to diffuse a tense relationship.
- Be Respectful: We all have differences and may not always agree, but we can treat each other with respect. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree. Show your willingness to work things out and your respect for the other person. Being open to fixing the problem can go a long to helping the other person respond in kind.
- Own Your Stuff: There is nothing worse than someone who can’t admit when they are wrong, but we all do it now and again. Own it and admit your role in the problem. It will immediately help alleviate some tension and open the lines of communication because you aren’t putting the other person on the defensive.
- Use What You Learned: Once you’ve opened the lines of communications and worked through whatever happened, talk about how to avoid the same thing in the future. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and build new skills to use in this and other relationships.
While conflict is a challenge, there is always an opportunity in there too. It is a chance for you to look at your role and learn more about yourself, and it is also a chance to learn more about the other person. With all the hours we spend at work, wouldn’t it be nice to have better relationships with our coworkers? The best part is that the more you work to address tension or conflicts quickly, the easier it gets!
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