It is virtually impossible to go through life and not utilize or apply some level of emotion when encountering people or situations.  With the immense amount of diverse pressures currently placed on many people, it is no surprise that some have allocated their frustrations inappropriately.  Those of us with full time employment spend a hefty amount of time with our coworkers and superiors daily.  And with this amount of time invested comes the possibility of more misunderstandings and personality clashes making their way to the surface.  How many times have we experienced a shortage of patience when having to repeat ourselves again and again?  What about conjuring feelings of annoyance when we feel there is a lack of appreciation for the hard work we put forth?  Certainly not every encounter in the workplace is negative but the premise of this discussion is to know what to do when faced with negativity in the office before it boils over and takes on a life of its own.

Possible seeds of tension

Everyone has a pet peeve.  Maybe you dislike when your coworker uses your writing pens without asking and doesn’t bother to return them, or perhaps it bothers you when you make a conscious effort to email your coworker a legitimate question and they simply do not reply to the message.  It could be that your issue with something or someone is work related or it could be that it is more ‘’preference oriented.’’ Regardless of which it is, you need to realize that most people have no idea what bothers you if you have not expressed it to them.  So what happens next?  You slowly begin to maintain a mental tally of all of the offenses your coworker has ‘’poked’’ you with over time.  Before you know it, you may be so burnt out by their actions that you snap at them, and that is unacceptable in the work place.  In order to prevent this sort of happening, effective communication needs to be practiced.  If there is something hindering you from working productively with a coworker or boss, you need to discuss and dissolve the issue as it arises.  If you do not feel comfortable approaching the person with the issue, it’s always best to get an office manager, office mentor, or human resources representative involved as a mediator.  The goal here is to do everything possible to alleviate an issue so that it does not create further tension in your work environment.

How to avoid tension & diffuse it

There are a few simple ways to avoid tension from the start.  Communication is always a valuable weapon in squashing tension and misunderstanding of any kind.  If possible, when an issue arises that could spawn unproductive conversation or action, verbally suggest to the parties involved that there has been some sort of miscommunication.  Offer clarification and allow them to offer you their understanding of the matter.  Then quickly decide on how to move forward after comprehension has been acknowledged.  This will not only allow clarification but will help you learn how a person communicates.  Remember to remain calm and composed when speaking.  The best results will occur when we are open to hearing one another out.

These are just a few solutions you can try when experiencing conflict in the workplace.  The key things to remember are that we will all make mistakes, we will all implement our emotions into our actions when working on the job to some degree, and we will all have our own preferences and opinions.  Yet the common goal is to work as a team to get the job done and the only way to do so is to eliminate as much tension in the office as possible with positive communication and actions.

Wakema Ligons, Staffing Associate

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