Work is just like life: you encounter different personalities, dispositions, and temperaments.
But work is different. You can’t simply walk away and disengage with someone who has opinions and values that don’t align with your own. You can spend as much as a third of your life at work, so it’s important to make the most of it; learning the skills to cope with many different personality types can help you navigate challenging situations that may arise.
Personal conflicts in the workplace can be even more common during presidential election years (a recent survey found 42% of U.S. workers have had political disagreements at work), so keeping these top tips top-of-mind can help avoid workplace strife before it arises.
1. Don’t take everything personally.
Right now, your coworkers are likely dealing with their own issues, and their actions may be a reflection of something they’re going through either at work or in their personal lives. If others are being negative or unpleasant to be around, remember, not every negative or uncomfortable encounter is directed at you. Take a few minutes to step back and assess the situation fully; maybe they are worried about something going on at home or stressed about a big project. The best skill you can have is to just offer help and rather than contributing to a hostile environment, even if someone else is.
At times, others’ actions can feel like personal attacks, but ask yourself, “Am I telling myself a story?” Perhaps someone’s email response was curt. Ask yourself: Did this person intend to upset me, or are they just in a rush between meetings? This mindset can help you talk yourself off of proverbial ledges — and can help keep the peace.
2. Remember: It’s okay to disagree.
Being a team player is one of the most common phrases in job descriptions, and it’s a soft skill that can have a large impact on your team dynamic, promotion potential, and more. It’s natural to feel frustrated with a coworker in the face personal or professional disagreements — but try not to let this frustration get in the way of your own productivity. Don’t be afraid to sit down with this coworker (if you feel comfortable doing so) and explain your frustrations; if you can focus the conversation on facts and events rather than emotions, it’s easier to engage in a rational discussion.
And if you cannot come to a consensus, it’s okay to disagree. Disagreement in moderation is healthy in any relationship, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your mental health and overall working relationship. At the end of the day, everyone on your team is (or should be) working toward the same goal and outcomes.
3. Learn to handle egos.
He got a big ego? It’s not uncommon to encounter coworkers with large egos, and the tension egos can cause is often a source of conflict — particularly when egos clash. People may go out of their way to prop themselves up and stand out by positioning their coworkers as lesser than them in quality of work and stature. To avoid an ego-driven conflict, it’s important to remind yourself that this isn’t personal. Like it or not, you only have control over your own response to others’ personalities. If you’re frustrated by a coworker who puts others down, try to find ways to level-set with an honest conversation, based in facts rather than emotions. Your coworker may not even realize that their behaviors are negatively impacting you. (Of course, if someone’s ego turns into bullying you or others, it’s best go down the proper channels with your manager or with HR.)
4. Keep gossip positive.
No matter the office or industry or team, gossip has a way of festering in a work environment. Gossip is a slippery slope and can often increase interpersonal conflict and decrease morale — while simultaneously straining relationships and decreasing productivity. The best way to avoid gossip is by identifying “gossip triggers,” so you can find ways to work around them. Sometimes, gossip is unavoidable, particularly if you’re part of a group conversation. If you’re able, try to tactfully redirect the conversation to something positive, or disengage.
As with any work environment, there will be frustrations and the desire to vent — but tread lightly. A certain level of venting is okay, as long as you can trust this person 100%. If you have a “work best friend” (a recent Gallup poll finds that you should!), try to confide in them and keep the conversation between the two of you, in order to avoid any inadvertent gossip and conflicts down the line.
Remember, your priority is doing great work. Try to maintain a non-judgmental attitude and know that at the end of the day, it’s all about how you react.
Krista is a Creative Circle candidate, creative writer and content creator in Los Angeles. Her background includes news, marketing, copywriting and editing.