Work Life

5 Things You Should Never Do During a Work Conflict

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Minor conflicts and frustrations at the office can easily get exacerbated and colleagues don’t always handle things in the best way. But rather than let small irritations take on a life of their own, it’s best not to let office heat get you down or make you lose your cool. Here are 5 things you should never do.

1. Exclude a colleague 

Of course you have your work friends in place. But if someone who works closely with you is getting on your nerves, try not to exclude them from group activities out of the office. Actually a shift of environment and a good laugh may be all that is needed to break the tensions. Try to keep disagreements about work, strictly about work and avoid letting them become personal. Everyone at work would rather get along than have tensions looming. Extending an olive branch of sorts and inviting them out rather than excluding them could have a positive impact that everyone can benefit from. Not sure how to make the invite? Try something like…“I know we disagreed about the data in the presentation but I don’t want that to become a personal disagreement. We’re all going out at work, want to come?”

2. CC their boss

It’s the oldest trick in the book and one of the most passive aggressive actions you can take. This is a road best not taken as it can shift dynamics for a long time to come. Once whatever the present issue gets resolved, you may have a hard time regaining your colleague’s trust and confidence. The best approach if something is really bothering you is to speak opening and directly to your co-worker. Something like “I love working with you and want to be sure that we’re able to maintain our workflow. I know we have different work styles and would love to come up with a way to create a process that works for both of us.”

 3. Gossip

Admittedly this can be hard to resist. But try to hold your tongue…literally. There’s no upside. Certainly you should have a safe space to vent and that may end up being to a colleague. However, there is a difference between gossip and venting -which could otherwise be called asking for help. The difference is your intention. Gossip has the intention of marring the other person’s reputation or getting others to agree with your negative viewpoint. When on the other hand you vent, or clearly outline your frustrations and ask for the best way to deal with the situation, you become solution focused. You may even have to recognize that the solution is that you might be causing the problem. That usually never happens when you gossip!

4. Undermine

Meetings are the great battle grounds of office combat. You can singlehandedly ruin someone’s day by simply forgetting to acknowledge them and their contribution to a project or interrupt their point with one that conflict and perhaps sways others against their viewpoints. Usually these things happen with little premeditation and as an emotional response to feeling previously wronged or undermined by the other. It takes a lot of self-awareness to realize you’re doing this but others may easily pick up on it. We’re certainly not suggesting you keep an opposing opinion to yourself. Just be aware of your motivations and if you’re in a tense situation at work, check in with yourself before going into a meeting or responding to group emails and other communications.

5. Outright sabotage

Deleting files from someone’s computer, giving them old data for a project or other such acts are perhaps more suited to movies about workplace rivalries. Working Girl and The Devil Wears Prada are great standards to have cued up and are great reminders that staying true to who you are and doing your best work will eventually pay off.


About the Author: 

Michele Mavi has nearly 15 years of experience as a recruiter, interview coach, and resume writer. She is Atrium Staffing’s resident career expert, as well as director of internal recruiting and content development. She also founded Angel Films, a division of Atrium Staffing focused on the creation of recruiting and training videos.

For over 20 years, Atrium has been partnering with the most in-demand brands and fashion houses in the world, placing freelance and full-time talent in jobs they love.