Workplace conflicts are bound to crop up occasionally, and some are pretty easy to move past, but others can cause stress and make your job a living hell. That’s why I’ve got some tips to help you through all kinds of issues, problems, and, yes, even drama. As long as you stay smart and keep a cool head, I guarantee you’ll be able to come out on the other side.
Keep things professional
When you’re having problems with a coworker or even your boss, it’s easy to get stressed out. At a full-time job, you’re spending at least 40 hours in the same building as these people. It’s hard to escape the drama when you’re physically trapped in it.
You probably spend a third of your waking hours with coworkers 5 days a week; it can be rough. Especially if someone with authority over you starts causing trouble.
The best thing you can do is be polite and keep it all professional. Do your best to avoid engaging with the people you’re having problems with. When you interact with them, ensure you’re keeping an even tone of voice and not adding any fuel to the fire.
What you don’t want to do is act petty yourself or start getting an attitude with someone… even if they deserve it.
Remove yourself from the situation
If being polite isn’t enough to make the problem go away on its own, do your best to avoid whoever you’re having issues with. Obviously, that’s not an ideal solution, but it will cause the least turmoil for you and your workplace. You have to pick your battles because some aren’t worth fighting.
Removing yourself from the situation can look a bit different depending on the conflict. It can mean simple things like removing yourself from a project, walking away from a meeting, or it can be a bit more drastic. You may want to take a long weekend to shake things off or even look into new jobs if it’s that bad.
Having to remove yourself from a conflict when you haven’t done anything wrong certainly doesn’t feel fair. Unfortunately, we can’t always count on others to do the right thing. You have to look out for yourself and make the best decisions for you. No one else is going to.
Your top priority is keeping your sanity and the emotional burdens from your job to a bare minimum. You’re working there to earn a living, not because anyone has a right to your time.
Keep notes of everything
Whatever your workplace conflict is, take notes and have receipts.
For interactions that happen face to face, summarize what happened immediately afterward while the memory is still fresh in your mind. If you’re getting texts or emails, make sure you’re taking screenshots and saving the images on your personal phone/ laptop.
If your boss or another employee is making difficult requests or even threats, you’ll want to ask for them in writing as often as possible. Hopefully, things don’t escalate, and you’re able to solve everything quickly. It won’t hurt to have as much evidence as possible on your side, just in case, though.
Your job is your livelihood, and you should protect yourself. Don’t feel bad about making sure there is proof that you didn’t do anything wrong. Like my mom always says, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Loop in HR
If you’ve done all you can on your own and the conflict is still giving you a headache, it’s time to call in a third party.
Regarding workplace conflict, HR or Human Resources is an important department to be aware of. Whatever may pop up on the job, they usually want to get things settled ASAP.
If you’re facing some sort of issue in the workplace that doesn’t seem like it will be settled any time soon, you will definitely want to bring it to HR’s attention.
Keep in mind that HR is on the side of the company first and foremost. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will side with your boss over the issue. What it means is that they will find a resolution that is best for your employer. They’ll also hopefully make sure nothing shady is going on.
Having HR in the loop keeps everything above board, and they can even help mediate the issue sometimes. If the issue is unavoidable and a solution can’t be found even after mediation, they can also help you begin transfer paperwork. (If it comes to that/ if transferring is even an option.)
At the end of the day
Depending on the situation, there’s no telling how everything will shake out. The best you can usually do is try to put on a brave face and not make anything personal. Research has found that most workplace conflict is caused by miscommunication, not malice.
For more advice on navigating interpersonal conflicts, we’ve got a blog all about that here. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter down below! We send out highlights on our best blogs and the advice we wish someone had given us when we were younger too.