How to Achieve Harmony in the Office
Useful tips on resolving differences in the workplace.
No man is an island, and when it comes to the workplace, we certainly don’t operate on our own. From vertical to cross-functional teams, we find ourselves interacting with multiple colleagues throughout the day. With targets and deadlines in place, it is not uncommon for disagreements and conflict to arise. When these are not resolved, a sense of frustration and tension builds in the workplace, adding to a stressful environment that detracts from the actual work that needs to be done.
If you’re dealing with challenging relationships in the office, here are some steps you can take to evaluate and defuse the situation.
1. Pause and observe your emotions
When conflict arises, it is easy to jump to conclusions and assume that a co-worker is out to sabotage your efforts. Instinctively, you might defend yourself by reacting with a hurtful reply. However, before you let those words roll off your tongue, take a moment to breathe and assess the situation before acting from a place of anger.
Step away from your desk and find a quiet spot where you can close your eyes and draw your attention to your breath. Take your time to breathe in. Breathe out. Relax the space between your eyes. Unclench your jaw. Let your shoulders drop.
After you feel your anger and tension subside, revisit the moment that triggered your negative emotions. Consider the conditions that lead to the conflict while staying as emotionally neutral as possible. This will allow you to evaluate the situation with more clarity and objectivity.
2. Clarify and communicate
Perhaps it was an email that seemed too harsh or a Whatsapp message that appeared to place the blame on you. Sometimes, it is all too easy to misread the tone of a message especially when it is delivered via digital mediums of communication. Did you misconstrue what your co-worker had said? Was it a classic case of miscommunication? If you’re not sure about something, don’t leap to conclusions. Speak to your co-worker privately to clarify their thoughts and actions.
If there is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed, communicate your thoughts openly and clearly, and take the time to listen to your co-worker’s point of view. If the conversation gets too heated and emotions run high, step away and initiate a discussion after everyone has calmed down.
3. Hold the gossip
When you’re feeling misunderstood or attacked, it might be tempting to unload your woes – coloured with your own biased perception – to other colleagues. These negative testimonials might cause others to be wary or fearful, further perpetuating the cycle of negativity. Worse still, the gossip might spread through the office, eventually reaching the ear of the very colleague you were complaining about. All in all, it creates a toxic environment of mistrust which does nothing to ease the conflict at hand. Words have weight and power. Choose and use them wisely.
4. Regard your co-workers with compassion
In the heat of the moment, it is easy for us to forget that your colleagues, like you, are human and infallible. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. These missteps might end up hurting another person even if we did not intend for it to happen.
Sometimes, a colleague might be dealing with their own set of frustrations both in and out of the workplace. Perhaps they are going through a divorce, battling an illness, or simply exhausted from caring for a young child. These are private struggles not known to you.
Instead of perpetuating a cycle of negativity, reach out to them and ask them how they’re feeling. If this feels a little too intimate and you’re not ready to take this step, you can mentally send them warm wishes. Wish them happiness, health, and peace. If their actions have hurt you, choose to forgive them instead of bearing a grudge (which consumes a surprising amount of mental headspace).
At the end of the day, instead of developing a sense of aversion to conflict, you can choose to see it as an opportunity to fine-tune your conflict management skills. It’s a step in the right direction of personal long-term growth.