THE BLOG

Office Clashes: Handling Conflict in the Workplace

31/12/2015 16:06 GMT | Updated 31/12/2016 10:12 GMT

The Christmas party is in full swing, you're by the buffet swaying to Fairytale of New York while having a slightly tipsy but positive conversation with a colleague; and Hallelujah! You realise they're not as bad as you thought they were. But come January, when all that's left of Christmas is the last pair of clean socks from your haul of presents, reality hits and it's time for the return of the whiny petulant colleague...

Modern workplaces can be fraught, and deadline driven environments don't always reveal people in their best light. Rest assured, many of us have been through times when a colleague has created a toxic work atmosphere or left us staggered by their behaviour.

It's difficult not to take things personally, but do take a step back, take a few deep breaths and remember to employ some of the below where relevant.

Be open and honest

Often, people do lack self awareness; consider asking them quietly why they are acting in a particular way. Be straight but always be constructive. Tell them how it makes you feel. Most people shy away from direct confrontation so they will either genuinely not realise that their behaviour was out of order or they will make some excuse. Either way, you have made them more aware of their behaviour and hopefully they will think a little before there is a next time.

Don't let your emotions get the better of you

The sad but harsh truth is, you will come across individuals who are just badly behaved or with whom you feel you don't 'click' in the workplace. Accept it: they are ruthless, resilient, and sometimes it seems like they're not human! There isn't a whole lot you can do about it other than beware if they have you in their sights. Instead of focusing on them, focus on your own path, development and success and don't try to win against them - be positive and collaborative, be your own person and do everything you can to enjoy your job.

Pick your battles

Avoid conflict for the sake of conflict. If the issue, circumstance, or situation is important enough, and there is enough at stake, people will do what is necessary to open lines of communication and close positional and/or philosophical gaps. Generally, if the issue is important enough to create a conflict then it is surely important enough to resolve.

View conflict as opportunity

Virtually every conflict provides the potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity. Your nemesis at work may be just what the team needs; a mix of personalities and approaches can actually breed success. Where there is disagreement, there is an inherent potential for growth and development. It is the smartest of leaders that look for the upside in conflict.

Remember: we're only human

We all go through bad times and whether we like it or not, it can impinge on our work and our attitude in the workplace. Some people might just need a little patience or kindness, especially when they are behaving unusually.

Author Wendy Mass once wrote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

So, don't lose that Christmas spirit in the harsh light of January. Be positive, keep your cool and use rational and constructive conversation to de-escalate any workplace situation. And identify that silver lining; working with people who have different points of view can often stimulate learning and development in us that we may not experience when we always see eye-to-eye with our colleagues.