If you have tension with a colleague, you’re not alone. A study cites avoiding annoying coworkers as a leading reason Europeans don’t want to return to the office after working from home. When tensions run high or you find yourself in strong disagreement, it can quickly begin affecting your quality of work and the energy you bring to it. So, what do you do when you have tension with a coworker?

Dealing with high motions, strong convictions, and addressing the source of a conflict isn’t easy for anyone, but waiting to address tension can make it worse. If you find yourself in conflict with a coworker, don’t wait to address it. Here’s what you need to know about easing tensions with coworkers respectfully and professionally.

Start with communication

Crucial Conversations, a book that addresses difficult but necessary dialogue uses the term “Silence to Violence” to describe how minor issues between coworkers can spontaneously erupt into serious disagreements. The authors prescribe a culture of having direct conversations, where coworkers can address conflict respectfully and head on instead of waiting until the disagreements suddenly escalate.

Even small tensions need to be addressed. Because of the way we act in professional environments, it can be challenging to detect and ease tensions when they arise, allowing them to grow until it’s no longer palatable.

Expectations to deliver, shared responsibilities, and team projects inevitably create the opportunity for conflict. This is why every team will face tension between coworkers at some point — what makes the difference is how we address conflict.

Confronting tension, not people

There’s a big difference between confronting tension versus people. When we confront tension with a colleague, there’s an understanding that the conversation is not about yourself or the other person. It’s about how you can move beyond a disagreement to continue working together.

Asking yourself the hard questions first. What is your role in the conflict? Have your reactions been emotional? What do you really want?

Take time to prepare. When having a direct conversation, remember its purpose and stay on task. Before you start a dialogue, know what you want to say and accomplish by having it.

“Always assume confusion over conspiracy.” It’s true that most people don’t carry malicious motives — it’s always the barrier to understanding that prevents tensions from being resolved. Empathizing and realizing how they’ve interpreted the situation will make your dialogue more productive.

How to start a difficult conversation

Addressing tensions with a colleague can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. Here’s what you can do to start the conversation and steer it in the right direction.

  1. Establish mutual purpose

You’re playing for the same team with the same goals. Establish a mutual purpose to move the situation from how you feel to how you can overcome these barriers.

  1. Establish mutual respect

Know what they do well and make an earnest attempt to understand their side of things. Don’t interrupt, and remember to listen through any emotional reactions you may have.

  1. Create a safe environment

Choose a private location or one that isn’t easily intruded on. If the tension is only between you and another coworker, it’s best to address your conflict together first.

Defuse tension as a team

All teams face tension. Creating a team culture that includes how to address tension, disagreements, and conflicts is vital to the success of your group. Team coaching could be a great way to help you overcome challenges between coworkers and avoid disruptions in your team or organization.

Continue the dialogue and contact us at info@acepointconsulting.com. We can’t wait to talk to you and discuss how you could improve collaboration on your team.

Click here to read our other articles on Leadership and Team Effectiveness.

Stay tuned for more insights.

Follow our company page on LinkedIn.