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7 Tips to Deal with Conflict at Work

7 tips to deal with conflict at work

You know the type. This co-worker passes by you without saying hello. They are agreeable about taking on tasks, and then don’t do the work. This person will argue your points in meetings but when confronted, they insist there is no problem.

Dealing with this conflict can be awkward and uncomfortable, so, it is important to have a strategy. 

7 Tips to Deal with Conflict


#1 Refuse to react

This type of co-worker is pushing your buttons to get a response. If you don’t give them the response they’re looking for, the game isn’t as fun for them, and often the behavior stops. Anger, frustration or defensiveness will only fuel the fire, so don’t give in. Remain calm when dealing with them, and hopefully the situation will resolve itself.

#2 Look at yourself

Let’s face it, none of us are perfect. Ask yourself, if you are part of the problem?

While you may not think you’ve done anything to deserve this passive-aggressive behavior, it’s possible that you may have caused upset without even realizing it.

#3 Consider the Root Cause

A co-worker who is routinely passive aggressive is afraid of, or simply avoids direct confrontation whenever possible, but continues to show their anger or frustration in other, less obvious ways. This is where passive aggressiveness is born. See it for what it is and move away from this “no-win” struggle.

#4 Look for Common Ground

By analyzing the situation (and not the emotional behavior) with your passive aggressive co-worker, you can focus on the problem at hand and forget about how their message is delivered. Remember that passive aggressive people are ineffective at communicating their feelings of hurt or anger in a constructive manner, so by figuring out their message, you may have a better chance of dissolving those feelings.

#5 Avoid Name Calling or Belittling Gestures

Heavy sighs, rolling your eyes, folding your arms across your chest, and calling them passive aggressive is only going to demean them, hurt their feelings and guarantee you will never build any type of alliance.

Instead, when managing conflict, address the impact of their actions on your ability to make progress, keeping the focus on the the project. Explain that you want to work past this is a productive and professional manner and move on.

#6 Avoid Gossip

It can be tempting to talk to other coworkers about someone’s behavior because you want to feel like it is not your fault. Find a trusted person, who will respect the information, and not spread it around, so you can get an objective opinion.

After all, teamwork is the ultimate goal and gossip will undermine the entire project as well as disrupt the culture.  

#7 Get Help

In extreme cases when conflict is consistent and may turn into bullying or extreme passive aggressive behavior, it’s time to get outside help. Recording dates and times of specific instances can help, as can copying others in on important emails. If the two of you are working together on a project, be sure to document your progress after every stage of the project. After meetings, list next steps and list deadlines. Keep contact at the bare minimum and try to work in a group setting whenever possible.

In the end, sometimes you can diffuse the situation, and other times, you won’t be able to. While you can’t control how this person treats you, you can definitely control your reactions.

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