We are all humans, and as such, we are prone to normal human behavior. We get hungry, we get tired and occasionally, we get irritable. As much as we try to stay kind and decent with one another, every now and then we can lose our tempers. Even within the confines of the modern American office, humans can explode in a powder keg of anger and frustration towards their coworkers. This is simply a part of life.
To be clear, I am not promoting workplace harassment or conflict, but sometimes personalities clash and tense verbal exchanges can occur. The question to ask yourself as a leader is: what are you going to do about it? There isn’t always necessarily a right or wrong answer, and so I figured I would highlight a few options of how to potentially handle an office conflict.
Change the Setting
When humans get together in the same setting over and over again, it can become a bit of a stressor, and when that setting is associated with another stressor, such as a coworker, then it can be a recipe for disaster. If you’re dealing with two or more coworkers in an argument, why not take all parties involved out to a bar or restaurant? Even simply going for a walk can help alleviate the situation. The point is to change the setting. Once the office is left behind, your employees can feel a bit more unrestricted or unconfined by the usual workplace boundaries, and this can spark a different, more collaborative discussion.
Embrace Conflict, but Stay Constructive
Sometimes conflict is not always a bad thing. If two or more employees are working towards the same goal, but are going about it in two different ways, you can still come to a strong and healthy conclusion. Conflict can create fantastic results. But this can only happen if the conflict is started with the intent to be constructive, not to be destructive. If your employees’ goal is to hurt or insult others, then that can only breed disdain and nothing good can come of it.
Assign a Mediator
Conflict can arise naturally, and this can lead to larger problems in the future. And as the leader, you’ll want to step in and mediate the problem as best as you can. Unfortunately, sometimes you simply can’t get anywhere with your employee because they feel that their response will be evaluated and scrutinized to the point where they could put their job in jeopardy. The best way around this? Assign a mediator. If you can assign a “third-party,” then your employees might be able to speak a bit more honestly about their issues or concerns.