How To Handle Office Conflicts
In my Soft Skills article, I talked about the importance of business acumen skills you must have in order to be a true professional. I would also like to add to this list the skill of being able to manage and handle office conflicts, e.g. difficult co-workers, miscommunication, negative or aggressive behaviors, etc.
Over the years I have learned to work with all different types of people and learned how to communicate using different types of body or speaking language. It was not easy to learn at first because I did not know what to look for. So, in my early career I had a difficult time communicating with co-workers or getting them to work with me. Also I did not understand their role and how it impacted my position and vice versa.
Learning how to manage and work through conflicts in the workplace is skill that you will only learn on the job and with communicating with others. Therefore, I thought it would be a great idea to share what I have learned that helped me not only communicate and work with others, but also it taught me how to resolve conflicts as well. Below are some tips or scenarios that I think you will find useful.
- Realize there is always going to be one or more people who may not work well with you. You may also feel that they do not like you for whatever reason.
Reserve judgement and never assume that someone does not like you right away. You never know, they may be thinking about the same about you or maybe they do not know how to approach you. My advice is to not try too hard to please them or make friends too quickly. There will be opportunities for you to collaborate with them at some point and this will be the time you can spark a conversation. Once they get to know you, they will come around to getting to know you.
- Someone on the job is constantly gossiping about staff and business information in the office to others. Additionally, this person is twisting the truth for their gain in order to disrupt the productivity of the staff.
Stay clear of those who gossip. Realize that you never know who is speaking to whom. Once information gets out, it is no longer in your control. So be very careful of what you say and to whom you say it too. My advice would be to work with this person on a very high-level professional manner and never speak ill of another person or disclose any business information you know in or around their presence. One mistake and you will be the center of attention due to gossiping employee.
- A co-worker is making it difficult for you to communicate with them. Examples include: not responding to your phone calls or emails, not attending meetings, making excuses on why they cannot meet with you, etc. This makes your task much harder and you cannot retrieve needed information which will cause your deliverable to be delayed. What should you do?
Before you run to their manager, see if you could have an impromptu meeting with him/her. Try to catch them when they are least busy so you won’t get blown off. In this meeting you will remain professional at all times. Use a calm voice tone and kindly explain your project, what you need and what you need from that person. DO NOT get into why they did not get back to you or return your messages. This will only put the person into defense mode and they will shut down on you. Keep it professional, without accusations. The goal is to learn their communication style and get what you need for your project. After a few meetings like this, both parties will have a better working relationship.
- You and another co-worker do not get along, but still need to work together. It has gotten to the point where on several occasions your manager got involved to settle the dispute, but no avail. How should you handle this situation?
Most often this comes down to learning what is said that triggers the behaviors. Learning what you want against what others want is often why two people cannot work together. Learning how to compromise does not show weakness on either side. It shows that you are willing to be open-minded to the other’s wants, needs and expectations.
My advice is to accept who they are as a person. Learn their language and personality so you can compensate for your reactive behavior. Reactive behavior is the natural response when there is an emotional trigger. For example, if your co-workers speaks in a loud aggressive voice, your natural reaction may be to also do the same. However, you will remain who you are and they will have to learn your language if they need information from you.
If your work environment is hard to bear because of the conflicts, and your manager cannot resolve the problem you may have to consider transferring to another department or pursuing a different employer. No one wants to work in a place that has conflicts and you do not want to be in a position where the manager has to choose between you and another co-worker regardless of who is causing the conflicts. So, learning how to read body language and speaking the language of the other person help you be able to teach others how to speak your language.
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