On the surface, organizations are about making money, delivering goods and services, and producing results. Scratch the surface of any organization, though, and you uncover a hotbed of emotions: people feeling anxious about performance, angry with co-workers, and misunderstood by management. Leaders are burnt out and workers are buried in resentment. Because many organizations call for unemotional behavior, individual feelings are often suppressed. Workers think their only options are to suck it up or quit.
People want to be productive and happy at work, but instead feel emotionally trapped. We have all had experiences with co-workers who drive us crazy. We get drawn into their personal problems, bad work habits, and irritating behaviors.
These situations drain our souls and harm our organizations, because the strength of an organization is in its employees. When there are problems in the workplace, it will affect the bottom line sooner or later.
What are some of the outcomes or consequences of unhealthy relationships at work?
• Employees don’t enjoy going to work
• People feel overwhelmed or disrespected on the job
• Tardiness, absenteeism, sick leave
• Reduced productivity or work quality
• Mental replay of conversations or interactions; inability to “get over it”
• Fatigue, illness, exhaustion
• Headaches, tension, stress
While handling workplace conflict is a multifaceted process, the first step you should take when you become frustrated – BEFORE you address the other person – is to calm down physically.
It’s a fact that when you are angry or upset, physical activity can often help you calm down and see the situation more objectively. It doesn’t have to be a 30-minute run – any type of physical movement can help you relax and think. Taking a physical break can often defuse your frustration and put you in a better position to think about the situation.
As an example, think about a time when you attended a meeting and something was said that upset you. What was your response? Did you become angry and then “check out” mentally? That’s a coping mechanism, but not one that offers you control. Deep breathing to calm yourself and release a little anger can help you check back into the meeting and respond objectively. Some other ideas for helping you physically calm down before dealing with a workplace conflict:
• Deep breathing
• Walk the hallway
• Step outside and enjoy the weather
• Splash cold water on your face
• Count to ten
Once you have gained control of your body and mind, you can more clearly think about the conflict situation and how to address your concerns with the other person.
Excerpted from the Leader’s Guide to the video program Working With You is Killing Me.
Training Resource: Working With You is Killing Me offers practical advice on how to “unhook” from emotional traps at work and save yourself from needless stress.