Working with others isn’t just social order. It’s in our code as human beings.
"Getting along” is actually a recent invention. Our ancestors had no use for preferences. Working with others and liking it would have made no sense. Everyone has to work. Who has time to worry about their attachments and aversions because of it?
We spend the majority of our lives communicating with others. And in the modern workplace, it is only a matter of time until you face a conflict. Whether it’s clashing heads with a co-worker, a miscommunication, or outright wrongdoing, there will come a time when you have to deal it. Dealing with unpleasantness ultimately means two things: showing up and taking action.
Taking initiative isn’t easy but it may stop the conflict from escalating. When it seems like everyone cannot just get along, here’s advice on how to deal.
Patience is a virtue, not a commodity. You can only exercise what you have of it. Many conflicts can be avoided with a simple pause. Taking a deep breath, composing yourself, and choosing to say nothing doesn’t sound actionable- but it is. Cool down before you get fired up. This saves you from saying something “in the heat of the moment” that you may regret later.
Be sure to listen to both sides of the story, especially if you are on one side of it. You might be surprised to learn why the other person is upset. Problems become more manageable by showing someone you care enough about them to listen to what they have to say. Listening allows for empathy. And sometimes, like magic, it solves the problem on its own.
Similar to holding your tongue, avoiding anyone or anything even remotely related to the conflict can spare you from becoming overly involved. That’s assuming you’re not directly related to the root of the problem or its resolution. For example, say two co-workers have been at each other’s’ throats. You’ve witnessed their bickering, and decide the matter isn’t serious (and it doesn’t affect your ability to get things done.) Water cooler gossip is tempting but the high road is taken by setting yourself apart from the drama and waiting it out.
Get An Outside Opinion
Confide carefully. Your instinct may be to confide in a co-worker or go straight to your boss. Instead, consider seeking an outsider’s perspective. Someone away from the workplace may have an opinion about things that gets you closer to the root of the conflict and thus its resolution. Or, it may be enough that they can help validate your feelings. Either way, consult someone you trust.
Blow The Whistle
Serious issues that breach company policy or, even worse, infringe upon the law, should be reported to a manager. First, ask for time to meet. This can be the hardest step: bringing attention to the conflict. But it’s also the most productive part once you’ve committed to blowing the whistle. Believe it or not, many organizations encourage whistle-blowing. They’d prefer to handle issues internally, whether through human resources or trained compliance management departments. That infrastructure buffers them from escalation. Above all, weigh your options. If you don’t blow the whistle, who will? Or, will the situation carry on unseen, possibly putting others at risk? If don’t expose it, you have to live with that knowledge.