For most of us, our work environment can become a very influential part of our lives. Working closely with our colleagues can not only impact our work environment experience, but also influence our personal lives. Nowhere is this truer than when dealing with conflict within the workplace.
Challenging co-workers are a given in any workplace. Personality differences, opposing work styles, even differences in drive and motivation can all lead to difficulties and conflict. Fortunately, conflict can be a healthy part of any working relationship, and with a little restraint and professionalism, challenging colleagues can become a learning experience for even the most seasoned employee or business owner.
Keep it professional
The last thing you want to do when dealing with a challenging colleague is to engage in unprofessional behaviour. We are all human and we tend to blur the lines between private and professional at times. However, it is especially important that these boundaries are adhered to when dealing with a negative work situation. The key is to deal with issues relating to work. If a person's personality affects your ability to work then it may be necessary to address it - simply finding them annoying or irritating, however, does not qualify.
Cover your bases
While pessimistic attitudes can lead to a stressful experience at work, being cautious about the impact a workplace conflict can have is sometimes necessary in order to protect yourself and your reputation. Avoid personal attacks or gossiping and ensure that your role is carried out as effectively as possible. That way if the relationship does deteriorate, your character or work ethic cannot be called into question.
Confide in a higher team member
While gossiping for the sake of it is never a good idea, it can be helpful to confide in a higher team member about the challenges you are facing with another colleague. Not only may they be able to offer their advice and personal experiences, they can also be a good sounding board when trying to determine if things are getting out of hand. An objective perspective can help you analyse the situation more effectively.
Resolve issues as soon as they arise
Our business relationships are a lot like our personal ones, and problems that are left alone tend to develop into bigger ones. When dealing with a challenging colleague, ensure any problems are dealt with as swiftly as possible so that they don't become points of contention in the future.
Feed the other aspects of your life
It is easy to become consumed with the challenges of work and for problems to feel bigger than they are. To help reduce the chance of this happening, aim to enrich other aspects of your life so that you don't feel work and its associated issues are taking over.
Take the matter further
While misunderstandings, personality clashes and differences of opinion are a normal and even necessary part of our development in business, if things do escalate ensure that you use the appropriate channels to resolve them. Bullying, harassment and intimidation should never be tolerated, be it as an attack or as a response to perceived attacks.
We spend a large chunk of our time at work, so it only makes sense that we do things to make the experience as positive as possible. Learning to deal with challenging colleagues is a valuable exercise in not only understanding those around us, but also defining how we react to challenging situations.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.