How to Avoid Workplace Conflict
Workplace conflict is so common, it almost feels unavoidable. Gossip, breaches of trust, and unpleasant colleagues can make your job a nightmare.
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If you’ve ever found yourself thinking ‘I hate my job’, this article is for you.
The truth is that there are many ways to resolve workplace conflict, but none are as effective as preventing it in the first place. If you’re starting a new job, or preparing to leave your current one in search of something better, learning how to do that is essential. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective methods.
Reframing the Situation
When conflict arises in your workplace, it’s normal to feel frustrated and angry. After all, your job already comes with plenty of stress and responsibility! Drama with any of your colleagues only makes it harder to get things done. Resentment builds once your own productivity is hampered by the tension at your job, which makes it even harder to solve the problem. So how can you avoid conflict?
Let’s start with a simple fact: you can’t. When you work with others in any capacity, you’re eventually going to find someone who simply doesn’t click with you. In the outside world, you can simply walk away from these people, but in the office it’s not as easy. Once your responsibilities depend in any way on this person, it’s up to you to find a way to make it work.
This isn’t to say you have to take these situations lying down. It’s about reframing your perspective: these types of challenges are inevitable, but with the right approach, you can transform them into opportunities for personal and professional improvement. After all, you are bound to come across more people like this in your professional future! Learning how to make the most of a bad situation now can set you up for success later on down the line.
Fight the Common Enemy
It’s human nature for the bonds in a group to strengthen when there’s a common enemy. This may sound primitive, and that’s because it is! It comes from our distant past, when humans had to stick together to survive a host of threats in the wild. However, you don’t need a saber-tooth tiger stalking your office for this same process to happen in your workplace.
Things as simple as deadlines, unreasonable clients, and bad weather all qualify as the “common enemy.” Ultimately, you and your colleagues have a shared goal: the successful completion of your work. This goal has obstacles! By figuring out what they are, you can foster a sense of teamwork by working to overcome them.
This means broadening your scope: don’t think about what’s slowing you down, or making your work harder. Instead, think of the obstacles that are preventing your colleagues from doing their job as best as they can, and put effort into solving those things. You may not always succeed, but the effort alone is enough to signal that you’re all on the same team.
Clear Your Head
No matter how patient and forgiving you are with colleagues you don’t like, the fact is that over time your ability to put up with them will wear thin. This, too, is human nature. You need a way to recharge. Whenever there’s the potential for workplace conflict, it’s your responsibility to go to your job in the best headspace possible in order to avoid it.
This simply means taking care of yourself. On a physical level, exercise is vital for burning away the tension that accumulates from repeated encounters with someone who drives you up the wall. Imagine that instead of burning calories, you’re burning stress! For each minute you exercise, your propensity to snap at an irritating colleague decreases dramatically.
Taking care of your mental health is no less important. As a first step, it’s vital to separate your private life from your working life. Here’s why: when workplace thoughts occupy your mind incessantly, you begin to lose perspective about the bigger picture. In this mindset, the frustrating behavior of your least favorite colleagues begins to seem like a serious problem. In reality, of course, it’s not!
Stepping away gives you time to clear your head and recharge your battery. This is why it’s so important to maintain healthy boundaries. Keep your work phone off when you’re off, don’t browse or answer emails until you get to the office, and don’t work when you’re not getting paid!
This isn’t about being selfish, or not taking your job seriously. It’s simply the recognition of the fact that you want to give your job your best. In order to do that, you need time to refuel between shifts. If you let work creep into your private life, you’ll have a harder time avoiding conflict later on down the line.
Transparency is Key
Just as meeting unpleasant colleagues is unavoidable, finding friends among your coworkers is also inevitable. While this is easily one of the best parts of having a job, it does come with a temptation you should avoid: gossip.
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The reason it’s so tempting to go behind people’s backs and gossip is the same common enemy principle we went over earlier! Workplaces, in particular, are fertile ground for friendships built on the mutual dislike of a cruel boss or creepy colleague.
Avoiding this is much easier said than done. Oftentimes, it takes a concerted effort to draw a line and not talk about anybody behind their backs! However, it truly is worth it. Workplace gossip has a way of finding its way back to you and causing problems later on.
Gossiping at work breaks down the line between your professional and private life. As we discussed earlier, keeping those separate is what helps you avoid conflict. It’s natural to want to complain about unpleasant people, but save it for your friends, not your colleagues! At work, simply act as if there’s always someone listening.
Leaving a Toxic Workplace
Unfortunately, no matter how much you try, there’s always the possibility that workplace conflict is simply going to come knocking on your door. Those of you with narcissistic bosses, deranged customers, and difficult colleagues know that often there is only so much you can do.
In situations like this, it’s obviously best to move on to another job. However, remember that knowing how to survive a toxic workplace gives you the skills you need to excel once you’re finally working somewhere better. With that being said, let’s recap some of the best ways to nip workplace drama in the bud:
- Fight the common enemy. Once you spot obstacles standing in everyone’s way, and put your effort into overcoming them, you’ll foster the feeling of being on the same team.
- Reinforce your ability to avoid conflict by taking care of your mind, body, and soul outside of work. Remember, boundaries exist for a reason!
- Transparency matters. Avoid gossip, no matter how tempting, and save your complaints for trusted friends instead of colleagues.
Most importantly, with the right attitude, you can take potential conflicts and turn them into opportunities to develop yourself personally and professionally.