Getting along with people at work can be a challenge.
Most of us spend a large portion of our day at work, sometimes putting in more waking hours there than at home. The sheer amount of time at work practically guarantees that tensions will arise periodically. Also, we generally don’t have much control over who we work with, so there can be a mixture of personalities that aren’t very compatible. Cubicles or open areas strewn with desks allow for little privacy or control over the work environment and increase the likelihood of contention. Combine these realities with the usual stresses from downsizing and you have fertile ground for workplace conflict.
There are several things you can do to manage workplace conflict, regardless of your position in the organization. The good news is that getting along at work uses the same skills and habits that you can use for getting along anywhere. The same strategies can serve you at work and at home.
• Manage your expectations. We often have the expectation that our lives should be conflict free, and we know life would be harmonious if the other person would just catch a clue. For some situations, it may be best to let the tension go and accept conflict as a given. Each of us is a unique individual with a different perspective and way of dealing with life. Tension arises from the edges where those individualities touch. And don’t worry too much if tensions develop at times between other people — it’s not your job to keep everyone happy.
• Take a break. Give yourself time and space to refocus on things other than the conflict. Use mid-shift breaks to get away from your work space. Go outside. Purposely change the subject of your thoughts and conversations.
Avoid recounting stories of disputes over and over. The less you focus on the conflict, the more likely you’ll be able to imagine creative ways to minimize the impact of differences.
• Treat others with respect. Mutual respect goes a long way toward easing battles over differing ideas or opinions. Separate opinions from the person expressing them. Unless something (often disagreement) shows us otherwise, we all tend to assume that everyone else sees the world the way we do. The value of conflict, when handled well, is to help you both understand each other better. Coming from a foundation of respect, you will be more likely to actually listen to what the other person has to say. With more information about the issue, you may even find yourself adjusting your opinion.
• Be proactive. If tensions are continually interrupting productive work flow, take the lead in addressing the problem effectively. Find a time when the situation is relatively relaxed to talk with the other person and explore their perspective. Be curious about how they view what’s going on. It’s not uncommon to find that apparent disagreements are actually due to misunderstanding.
One difference between tensions at work and tensions elsewhere is that the stakes are higher — a falling out with your supervisor could have dire consequences for your livelihood. Though it may feel good in the moment to yell or stomp out of a meeting in disgust, don’t burn bridges. Honing your healthy conflict resolution skills can give you a reputation as the person with solutions, someone who works well with others, a team player. These are the workers employers want to keep and promote.can be tough