Workplace etiquette: avoid conflict in the workplace

Zip it


Learn to think before you speak. Bite your tongue before that provocative remark comes out of your mouth and you find yourself embroiled in a fight.

Sit, wait, think and act when correct
Whenever you have issues in the workplace, you’re better off thinking through your words before you voice complaints, thoughts or suggestions. Whether you’re a business owner, supervisor, manager or employee, the workplace can sometimes become a tinderbox for conflict.

Listen, don’t dispute
Sometimes your manager needs to tell you how disappointed he is with you. Sometimes your co-worker needs to go on a diatribe about how you “neglect” him. Sometimes your employee needs to express his or her resentment about the way you’ve treated them. You can’t argue with feelings. Listen when your co-workers, managers, or employees express strong feelings. Rather than argue and try to insist that they shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling, understand that they are feeling that way and simply say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Try to put yourself in their shoes and give them the empathy that you would want yourself. Arguing may only make a situation worse.

Document, document and document again
Rule no. 3 having been followed, make sure you protect yourself with thorough documentation of any potentially volatile situations. This rule applies to people on both sides of the power structure. A smart employee, as well as a smart manager, will document issues that relate to self-preservation and the protection of job security.

Good fences make for good work relationships
Create boundaries and set limits in the workplace. Know how much contact you can take and how much will ignite your internal nuclear bomb. Also, keep in mind that you don’t know which one of your co-workers will be easily ignited, offended or wounded; another reason why keeping clear, but cordial, boundaries is another way of protecting and preserving yourself.

Cordiality and friendliness
Having vowed to create appropriate boundaries, make every effort to be cordial and friendly. Ask co-workers and supervisors about how they are; notice changes in their appearance in a complimentary way; comment upon the quality of their (good) work. Being popular can only make work life easier.

Thou shalt not overreact. Ever.
When co-workers feel neglected, they often will create a scenario that invites your overreaction. Overreactions cause all-out wars and can get you fired. Don’t do it. Assess a dispute with your co-worker. Is it really worth fighting over? Repeat to your self, “They’re only words and I want my job.”

Play well with others
If you want to win the war (keep your job and progress up the career ladder), sometimes it’s strategically advantageous to lose the battle. Assess a work situation carefully. Strategize and assess your gains and losses in a situation. If your supervisor or manager needs to act as if he or she came up with an idea that was actually yours, don’t argue with them.

Let brevity and paucity be your motto
In the workplace, if you keep contact limited and utilize a cordial and polite silence to avoid fights, you can often extinguish flames that are being directed your way. Supervisors and managers appreciate a cooperative employee who gets to the point succinctly.

What you see is what you get
Do not ever try to change your co-workers, especially those who are above you in the hierarchy of the workplace. It is a cardinal rule that people can change themselves, but none of us can change another. You are doomed to failure if you try to get your supervisor to see their flaws and change their ways. Learn to change what you can and accept what you cannot change.

Stay in the driver’s seat
Take control of potentially volatile work situations and take charge of managing them. For example, if you work for an individual who needs ample amounts of admiration and appreciation, give it to them. Work actively to make your work life smoother and to protect your employment and chances of rising on the career ladder. Remember that the best defense is a good offense. Strategize and evaluate the personalities you contend with and apply good people management techniques to the cast of characters you live with during your workday.

Author: Mark Sichel is the author of the best selling and highly acclaimed book, Healing From Family Rifts. Mark has been a practicing psychotherapist, teacher, consultant, and speaker since 1980.