Things Getting Heated At The Office? Avoid These 5 Knee-Jerk Reactions

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Two coworkers fighting

© romankosolapov / Adobe Stock

Michele Mavi
Michele Mavi10
April 25, 2024 at 12:49AM UTC
As hot as it can get outside, sometimes the heat inside the office can be harder to take. Minor conflicts and frustrations at the office often get exacerbated and colleagues don’t always handle things in the best way. While your impulse may be to ignore the conflict or pull away from your colleague, don’t let office drama get you down or make you lose your cool. Here are five things you should never do.
1. Exclude a colleague.
If someone you work closely with is getting on your nerves, try not to exclude them from group activities outside of the office. Shifting the environment and sharing a good laugh may be all that you need to relieve the tension. Remember — disagreements about work should remain about work, they don't have to become personal. Everyone at work would rather get along than have tensions looming.
Instead of ignoring any tension, extend an olive branch and invite them out when you and other teammates have plans. Not sure how to make the invite? Try something like… “I know we disagreed about the data in the presentation but I don’t want that to become a personal disagreement. We’re all going out after work, want to come?” The impact will be positive and you'll both feel better.
2. Add their boss to an email chain.
It’s the oldest trick in the book and one of the most passive aggressive actions you can take. This is a road best not taken as it can shift dynamics for a long time to come; once the present issue gets resolved, you may have a hard time regaining your colleague’s trust and confidence. If something is really bothering you, speak openly and directly to your co-worker. A good starting point? “I love working with you and want to be sure that we’re able to maintain our workflow. I know we have different work styles and would love to come up with a way to create a process that works for both of us.”
3. Gossip at the water cooler.
Admittedly, this can be hard to resist, but really try to avoid gossiping. There’s no upside. Venting does have its place, but there is a difference between gossip and venting. Gossiping has the intention of getting others to agree with your negative viewpoint. When you vent, on the other hand, you're also discussing the best way to deal with the situation and the conversation becomes solution-focused. You may even have to recognize that you might be causing the problem. That realization usually never happens when you gossip!
4. Intentionally (or accidentally) undermine them.
Meetings are the great battlegrounds of office combat. You can singlehandedly ruin someone’s day by simply forgetting to acknowledge them and their contribution or interrupt their point with one that conflicts or sways others against your coworker's views. Usually, these things happen with little premeditation and as an emotional response to feeling previously wronged. It takes a lot of self-awareness to realize you’re doing this, but others will pick up on it much more easily.
We’re certainly not suggesting you keep an opposing opinion to yourself. Just be aware of your motivations and, if you’re in a tense situation at work, check in with yourself before going into a meeting or responding to a group email.
5. Sabotage.
Deleting files from someone’s computer, giving them old data for a project or other such acts are perhaps more suited to movies about workplace rivalries. Leave the office sabotage to movies like "Working Girl" and "The Devil Wears Prada" — but keep watching them for a great reminder that staying true to who you are and doing your best work will eventually pay off.
Michele Mavi has nearly 15 years of experience as a recruiter, interview coach, and resume writer. She is Atrium Staffing’s resident career expert, as well as director of internal recruiting and content development. She also founded Angel Films, a division of Atrium Staffing.

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