It happens to everyone at some point: workplace conflict. Your colleagues can be a great source of support, but if you get on someone’s bad side, heading to work can also be a headache. Whether you’re being misinterpreted or your personality is clashing with a coworker’s, here are a few ways to navigate workplace conflict with your professionalism and sanity intact.
Fix Things Early
The first rule of workplace conflict is to notice communication problems, or even potential problems, as early as possible. If you let tension simmer for too long, there might be a big blowup, which will be a lot harder to smooth over than an everyday conflict.
If you notice that your colleague seems snippy with you or unhappy about something you’ve done, take a private moment (without being confrontational, of course) and ask them about it. If you can talk things through before the conflict gets out of hand, it will be better for everyone in the long run.
Don’t Get Personal
At all times during workplace conflict, keep conversations professional and respectful. Don’t raise your voice or deliver value judgments about a coworker’s work ethic, personality, or other traits or behaviors. Instead, point out specifically what you believe went wrong in the workplace, and be open to constructive criticism yourself. Steer clear of an aggressive or insulting tone, and give your coworker the floor so that they feel heard as well.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Remember, when you’re trying to resolve a workplace conflict, you have to be open to change and compromise as well. Your goal isn’t to win an argument, but instead to open up a healthy, productive line of communication with your coworker(s). If your colleague brings up something you said or did that they were offended by or upset about, try not to get defensive. Instead, take a deep breath, and consider asking what you could do to smooth things over or address the problem going forward.
Go to HR or a Supervisor
If your conflict gets too difficult to handle on your own–and certainly if your colleague starts behaving inappropriately or either of you starts to get truly angry–consider asking a supervisor or an HR representative to mediate the conflict. Remember that that’s part of your supervisor’s job, and that a manager might have tools at their disposal to help you navigate a difficult situation while remaining civil, safe, and professional.