Its funny how conflicts at work drive us more insane than almost any other. When it comes to our careers, we tend to lose perspective very quickly and small issues can become huge. Have you been in a situation when you felt that a workplace conflict was ruining your life? Has an issue in the office spilled over and affected your private life? What can you do when things get really serious?
- First, perspective is key. Although work can become all-consuming at times, its just one part of your life. The person with whom you are battling is just one within your network. Its too easy to fixate on the negatives. One easy way to overcome this is to spend more time with people you do get along with in the office. Tackle this physcially by moving around, getting up from your desk. This will refocus your energies and improve morale. Another simple tip is to pour your woes out to a good friend over coffee. A problem shared is a problem halved for sure, but the obession we create for ourselves starts to sound faintly ridiculous when aired out loud to someone who doesn’t work with us.
- Don’t retaliate. It’s all too easy to get involved in an escalating war in the office. Back off. Refrain from bitching and back-stabbing. Try not to pour fuel on the fire. Rediscover your sense of humour and try to see the positives in your opponent.
- Get some distance. If we are able to take a step back from a workplace conflict, it often eases up. Don’t obsess over the situation or let it take over your life. Make sure your office hours are sensible and that you are taking time to relax. Fitness devotees will find that a good run or exercise class will make them feel better. Follow your escape route and if you find yourself thinking about your nemesis, carefully and deliberately lock those thoughts in a box. Or put them in a metaphorical balloon and let them float away.
- Don’t take conflict in the workplace personally. If you are dealing with a difficult person, don’t pay them too much attention. You can bet that they are not thinking about you, or your feelings, at all. And certainly, don’t allow them to infiltrate your life as a whole. At times, when I have dealings with very difficult people and find myself lying awake worrying about them, I try and remind myself that they are most certainly not lying awake worrying about me. Under no circumstances, allow a workplace conflict to affect your health or well-being. Take action.
- Use conflict as a catalyst for change. Many people see conflict as negative and can, in extreme circumstances, be forced out of their jobs. I suggest you use difficulties in the workplace as a driver for managing your career. Don’t sit around being bullied. Take careful note about the kind of behaviours and cultures you don’t like. Spend some time thinking about the kind of atmosphere that motivates you and investigate whether your career would be better served in another job.
- If all else fails. Of course, if conflict in the workplace does escalate into something more serious, you do have options and support. Your HR department will have a grievance procedure, as will your union. There are also free legal services at your disposal as well as chargeable ones. It’s always better to try to take positive action on a personal level than to get involved in a difficult process at work but there are laws and policies in place to protect employees in these kinds of situations.