Experiencing a conflict with a coworker is never pleasant, given that you have to see this person most days of the week. Learning how to handle conflict with a coworker is subsequently key, as it helps you mitigate the situation and hopefully prevent further strife. To assist your conflict resolution efforts, review tips for handling coworker conflicts in peaceful, healthy ways.
Stay As Calm As You Can
When someone comes at you in a combative manner, it is natural to get defensive. No one appreciates someone using harsh words or otherwise yelling at them, which can result in “yelling back” and possibly saying things you don’t mean. To help you remain calm when a coworker is “coming at you,” take a few deep breaths. Focus on breathing through your diaphragm, which instantly calms the mind and body. Deep breathing also helps you avoid reactive comments that can make the situation worse. If you need a minute to compose yourself, let the coworker know that you want to resolve the issue as soon as possible, but require a little time to breathe and think about what is going on.
Retrace the Steps Leading to the Problem
When you both are composed, ask to meet in a private area, such as an unused meeting room, to discuss the issue in detail. See if you can retrace the steps that resulted in the current conflict. For example, perhaps a recent email to a coworker went to their spam folder for some reason and they accidentally deleted it. The coworker interpreted the “lack of response” as a slight and got angry, accusing you of never replying to their email “as you have in the past.” You could calmly acknowledge that you may not always be the best in terms of fast email replies, but you absolutely responded to the email in question. You could also remark that while your past performance in terms of email responses hasn’t always been great, you have made a point of replying quickly over the past few weeks or months.
Find a Way to Compromise
Learning how to handle conflict with a coworker is about finding ways to compromise. For example, you could agree to stay on top of workplace communications and not let emails go answered for more than a day. The coworker could agree to confront you calmly in a private setting about any issues moving forward instead of lashing out in front of your peers. By working together in this way, both you and the coworker will leave the meeting feeling satisfied instead of frustrated.
If the coworker refuses to compromise for any reason, it is probably time to seek outside help. An impartial manager could help you resolve the problem, or the Human Resources department, if applicable. Professional mediators also provide assistance, as they are completely objective and trained in such matters.
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