Are you constantly worried that you’ll snap at someone and blow your cover as the affable, peace-loving person that you are? If so, you’re not alone. A lot of us feel that way when it comes to confronting people who drive us crazy — especially in the workplace. Perhaps your workmates hog the coffee machine and leave nothing for anyone else. Or they leave their messes for someone else to clean up. Maybe they bring a negativity that drains everyone around them. It can be hard to know how to maintain your cool when things get testy at work, but it is possible. Here are six tips on how to manage conflict in the workplace and keep things from getting out of hand:
Communicate — respectfully — up front. #
You’re going to have to put your foot down at some point, or else nothing will change. However, the best time to do this is before things get out of control. Clear communication is key in any workplace, but even more so when there is a potential for conflict. Let people know what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you. Whether you have a one-on-one meeting with a colleague who is driving you nuts, or you address the entire team, let them know what you need to succeed. If a colleague is acting inappropriately, let them know how their behaviour affects you. Be respectful, and don’t assume that they know how to conduct themselves in a professional environment.
Don’t be a hypocrite. #
We’re all guilty of this at some point in our lives. You are doing something that you would not want done to you, or you are tolerating behaviour that you would not want someone else to tolerate from you. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to put a stop to it. Otherwise, you’re going to end up resenting that person or people, and it will suck the joy out of your job. Not to mention, you could be in violation of company policies if the person you are being a hypocrite towards reports you. If someone is bothering you and you do not want that person to know that they are bothering you, you can still communicate with them. You can still be friendly with them, but you don’t have to engage with them on the same level that they are engaging with you. You can use silence as a way to communicate. You can use eye contact as a way to communicate. There are many different ways that you can communicate to someone that they are bothering you without having to say anything.
Know your boundaries. #
There are certain things that you have to tolerate at work. That’s just part of the deal. However, there are certain things that cross the line and should never be accepted. You should have a list of what those things are so that you can stand up for yourself and others. If someone is asking you to do something unethical or something that goes against your values, you should speak up and let your supervisor or the person who is asking you know that you will not be participating in that. You should not be asked to do anything that is illegal. In some cases, particularly in the case of a sexual harassment claim, you may need to report the person to human resources. In other cases, you can just let the person know that you will not tolerate that type of behaviour.
Use humour as a tool. #
If someone is driving you nuts, you may want to try to lighten the mood with a silly joke. If the tension is coming from the fact that someone is being too serious, a joke can be a great way to diffuse the situation. However, it’s important to choose your jokes wisely. Jokes that are racist or sexist should be avoided at all costs. If you don’t know what kind of humour to use, think about what would make the person laugh. What would be silly, but also not be offensive or rude? If you’re in a situation where multiple people are driving you nuts and you can’t diffuse the situation, you can use humour as an escape. Think of silly things to do, like drawing silly pictures of the people around you.
Don’t let small things build up. #
If you keep letting small things build up, they’re going to turn into big things. When someone is annoying you, try to address it as soon as you can. Let the person know that what they are doing is bothering you or that you have an issue with them. You can be firm but also polite. You don’t need to be rude just because you want to confront someone. If the person apologises and stops, great! You don’t have to worry about them any longer. If they don’t, then you may have to take the next step.
Ask for what you want directly. #
If you want a colleague to give you more recognition at work — or if they are being a general pain in the behind — you should let them know. If you want someone to stop interrupting your work, you should let them know. You don’t have to be rude or confrontational, but you do have to be firm. If someone is doing something that is bothering you, ask them to stop. If they don’t, you may want to consider speaking to a supervisor about the issue. Your supervisor may be able to help you work through the issue. They may even be able to address the issue themselves.
Conflict is unavoidable in the workplace. That is why it is important for you to know how to manage it. Communicate with your coworkers, set boundaries, use humour to lighten the mood, don’t let small things build up, and ask for what you want directly. When all else fails, you should be able to confront the person without letting your emotions get the best of you.