Maybe it is a big personality difference.
Perhaps they wield power over you without any logic whatsoever.
Possibly they have never produced a good idea in their entire life.
Regardless, most all of us have had to deal with “coworker conflict.” A study reported in a recent article in Harvard Business Review found that 94% of those surveyed had worked with a “toxic” person in the past five years. Yikes!
So what should we do when we encounter coworker conflict?
Here are some suggestions from that HBR article. None of these are magic, but they are a good place to start.
1. Remember that your perspective is just one among many. And maybe this is actually the time that someone else’s perspective will be more helpful to the team. Keep open to that possibility.
2. Be aware of your biases. There are a wide variety of reasons that you may have an unconscious bias for a person or their viewpoints. This is true of each of us. Remember this and be suspicious of your own certainty that your perspective is pure and rational.
3. Don’t make it “Me Against Them.” They probably are not out to get you and this is probably not personal. Don’t escalate it to that point. Do your best to think of your coworker as a colleague.
4. Know your goal. Focus on the most important goal of the matter you are discussing. Think long term about what is in the best interest of the organization.
5. Avoid venting and gossip. If you have one or two trusted colleagues at work, then it is fine – even good – to vent with them and get it out. But – do not do this with many people and absolutely do not spread gossip about others.
6. Experiment to find what works. Treat your ideas and those of your colleagues (even the person who always has stupid ideas) as hypotheses that can be tested. Encourage experimentation to test ideas.
7. Be – and stay – curious. Keep an open mind about how the relationship with your colleague might change over time. Stay curious for changes in your relationship.
Let’s add an 8th idea: Keep Calm; as much as you can. If you practice Mindfulness, call upon those principles. None of us wants to do anything we will regret later. Keep Calm and Be at Peace.
*Ideas for this blog taken from: Gallo, A. “How to Navigate Conflict with a Coworker,” Harvard Business Review, September – October, 2022.