Dealing With Arguments At Work & Not Losing Your Shit
> Arguments at work are normal and can actually have some positives
It’s not quite shouting, but she’s talking pretty loudly.
Her strong words are like verbal missiles. You do your best to counter most of them with logical explanations. However, a few do hit you and they hurt.
When she points out your incompetencies and weaknesses right in front of everyone, that’s when your blood starts to boil and your forehead veins start popping.
The gloves are off now.
This is a bare-knuckle brawl.
She doesn’t know shit about this project and what you went through to pull it all together. And yet, she’s pointing out tons of stuff that she thinks is wrong when you know it’s right.
For every 10 verbal punches she throws, you counter back with 2-3 of your own. You’re holding your ground but just barely.
You hate arguing and getting into conflicts because it stresses you out. And this one’s dragging on for way too long.
You throw in the towel, “Okay, fine. Whatever.”
For the rest of the afternoon, you replay the argument in your head over and over but unlike what actually happened, you imagine yourself winning and shutting her down.
It’s during these mental replays that you’re able to come up with the counterpoints, comebacks and subtle bitchslaps to put her back in her place.
You actually debate going over to her desk to lay it all out but never quite get the courage to actually do it.
Before you know it, it’s the end of the day and your chance to clear the air is gone.
As you drive home, the fog of the conflict rides shotgun and once you arrive home, it gets stuck in your head like that distant relative who overstays their welcome and just won’t leave.
Some of us can have a huge blow up at someone - or even be on the receiving end - and minutes later it’s like nothing ever happened.
But for you, conflicts can have a real impact on the rest of your day or even your week, and affect your levels of stress.
Considering that arguments at work are inevitable, you need some serious tools for dealing with these conflicts, especially because hiding in the bathroom isn’t usually the best option.
Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Arguments are inevitable. They are a part of our daily lives so, of course, they are a part of our working lives.
According to research by Fierce Inc, 30% of executives and employees argue with a co-worker at least once a month.
In addition to being a natural form of human interaction, arguments can actually be a positive thing, especially at work.
A little bit of healthy back and forth is a good thing at work and here’s why.
1) New Ideas
Without some disagreement and debate, new ideas would never be uncovered. When everyone can freely share their different perspectives and thoughts in a conversation, it boosts overall innovation and creativity.
The ability to openly disagree also prevents groupthink or herd mentality. This is when a group of people has such a strong desire to work together harmoniously that they make less than optimal decisions just to avoid “rocking the boat.”
When this happens, the results are often mediocre and quite lame.
2) It Shows Passion
People don’t argue about things they don’t care about.
Does anyone in the office care about whether the napkins in the break room are bleach white or natural light brown?
Nope, nobody gives a shit about that.
Well, except for Gary in accounting ‘cause it’ll save a few pennies.
However, if colleagues are disagreeing and debating about the launch timing for the next product, it’s a sign that they are passionate about the work and about doing it to the best of their ability.
So when you feel the urge to argue, don’t see it as a negative. See it as a reflection of your dedication to the project.
3) Opportunities For Growth
Usually, when there is a debate or argument, there is something new to learn.
When people are sharing different perspectives and different experiences, they are also offering an opportunity for others to learn from them and see things in a different way.
Whenever there is a conflict at work, ask yourself “what can I learn from this?”
Sometimes though, there’s really nothing much to learn other than how to deal with assholes - but that’s a useful skill too!
4) Build Bonds
Arguing brings us closer to people. Think about it. We disagree most with the people we’re closest to. And that’s because we’re more open to freely express our opinions and thoughts. We don’t hold back.
However, most of us won’t get into a heated debate with a stranger - because ultimately, what they think doesn’t affect us. We simply don’t care.
But when we are close to someone, we want them to understand and agree with us - and we want to better understand them too...well, most of the time. 😉
Arguing gives the opportunity to get a closer look at people’s core values and beliefs, building bonds and ultimately bringing you closer.
Despite all of these positives, arguments can still be difficult to deal with, especially in the workplace where there is so much office politics to navigate.
The key to managing conflicts at work is to stop unhealthy and unproductive arguments before they begin, and effectively navigate disagreements once they arise.
See Into The Future & End Arguments Before They Begin
“I totally saw that coming.”
How many times have you thought that to yourself after a big office drama?
You see the meeting invite, the attendees and the topic. Two of the biggest hammerheads in the office are stepping into the ring to duke it out in this meeting.
Some of us will microwave some popcorn to eagerly watch the slugfest while others will just close their eyes and plug their ears.
Usually, these things don’t just appear out of nothing like the Big Bang. There are plenty of warning signs and red flags.
The culture and environment in the workplace is the responsibility of each and every one of us, so there are some things that we can do to prevent or minimize the negative impacts of big arguments we feel are brewing, even if we’re not likely to be involved.
1) Give Fair Warning
If you’re organizing or contributing to a meeting where there are opposing camps and a controversial topic on the agenda, give people fair warning.
You need to moderate to the best of your ability and be like a referee in a championship heavyweight boxing match.
Share the agenda in advance and, if possible, add any additional information that will fully prepare people for the conversation that will be taking place.
2) Prep Yourself
If you’re running a meeting that may lead to disagreement, make sure you arm yourself with all the facts and relevant information. Anything that’s not based on facts and/or data will only create assumptions and lead to worse situations.
If there are two or three distinct points of view on a topic, make sure you’re educated and up to date on all of them, so you can play the role of mediator effectively.
3) Listen To Others
When there is a disagreement at work, it can be difficult to know where you stand personally.
We tend to end up on the side of whoever has our ear - as we only hear their side of things.
The best thing to do to come to your own, informed conclusion is to hear different points of view. Speak to the people across the table about their viewpoints and try to understand where everyone is coming from.
This will make it much easier for you to take a stance, be confident in sticking to that position, and be able to explain your reasons to others without causing an argument.
Dealing With Arguments At Work
No matter how much we try to prevent them, arguments at work will happen.
Sure, we can usually see them coming and some of the tips above may help us to avoid a blowout.
But sometimes, tensions are running high and - even with all the warning in the world - we’re simply headed straight into a fight.
Also, some people are just assholes, and want an argument.
VIDEO: THE OTHER GUYS OFFICE ARGUMENT
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> A win for the introvert!
Whatever the reason, you will find yourself in an office argument at one point or another. And in these situations, we cannot control other people. All we can do is manage our own response.
What To Do In The Moment
In high tension situations, we often speak without pause and later wish we could take back what we said.
Make it a point to take a long deep breath before you respond to any statements or questions.
This will have the double benefit of calming you down and giving you time to think about what you’re going to say before blurting it out.
A lot of the time when people are busy arguing, they don’t take the time to make sure they’re actually arguing about the same thing!
Be clear on what the problem is that you’re trying to solve so that the debate that forms around it is productive and coherent.
It sounds obvious, but a lot of the time we don’t fully listen to those we disagree with. While they are talking, we’re busy in our heads deciding what we will retaliate with.
When you find yourself in a disagreement, don’t cut the other person off. Truly listen and you might hear a different point of view to what you expect.
Watch Your Body Language And Tone
Remember that we communicate with so much more than just our words.
A sneaky eye roll, sitting with your arms crossed, or speaking in a condescending tone can all make a mountain out of a molehill.
Be aware of your body language, facial expressions and tone of your voice.
Don’t be afraid to ask for further clarification so that you can truly understand the position of your colleagues. It’ll also prove that you’re paying attention.
Validate Rather Than Invalidate
Frustrations often rise in arguments because people dismiss each other’s opinions and experiences. Using words like “but” or “however” completely invalidate your colleague’s points.
Instead, focus on validating what they’re saying and simply offering another point of view.
Reassure them that you understand where they’re coming from and use phrases such as “My understanding is...” and “Okay, I see your point.”
Don’t Get Personal
Always focus on the problem, not the person. If other people start to hurl personal attacks, quickly shut it down with phrases like...
“I think it’s important we focus on the problem here.”
“Let’s not get distracted from the main point of the conversation.”
“This is not a personal issue. Let’s stick to business in this conversation.”
Don’t Take Sides
If you’re caught in the middle of an argument that really has nothing to do with you, don’t take sides.
Each side will most likely try to win you over for validation and credibility, but the best thing you can do is keep the responsibility on the arguing parties to come to an agreement.
Know When To End It
Sometimes, a conversation is in a downward spiral and there’s really nothing you can do to bring it back.
In this situation, it’s time to ring the bell and end the meeting or call.
State that you feel the conversation is heading into unproductive territory and that you think it would be best to take some time and reconvene at a later date.
What To Do After An Argument
Go Cool Down
Trying to reconcile or continue a conversation right after an argument isn’t wise. Tensions are still high for everyone. You may still feel attacked or unheard, and you haven’t had the time to process and reflect on what just took place.
Give yourself space and time to cool down and be able to look back over the argument and everyone’s role in it. Go for a walk outside and breathe and dial down the stress before going back to your desk.
Don’t Take It Personally (even if it was personal)
It can be really easy to take workplace arguments personally. If someone criticizes your work or your ideas, it feels like they’re criticizing you.
But remember, that’s simply not the case.
If Bill thinks his way is better than your way, it’s because everyone thinks their way is best - not because everyone thinks your way is crap.
But what about when someone out and out takes a shot at you? How can you not take it personally when it is personal?
If the other person starts throwing personal shots at you. Don’t get pissed off. Just smile.
Yes...smile. You know why?
When someone takes a personal dig at you, it’s because they’re fresh out of logical arguments and what that really means is that you won the debate 😉
Put It In Writing
When there has been a disagreement, there are usually many sides to the story.
Because of the highly emotional aspect of the conversation, people will forget about the facts and maybe even entire portions of the conversation.
If you were leading the meeting, write down the notes and send everyone the minutes so that they are clear on the conversation that took place.
This will also help to clarify the areas of disagreement and what questions still need to be answered.
Follow Up Meeting
If the argument resulted in some unfinished business, schedule a follow up meeting a reasonable amount of time later.
Share the notes mentioned above so that everyone arrives at the meeting on the same page.
Diffusing tense situations at work is one thing but, for some of us, the real challenge is getting rid of that nasty, negative energy afterwards.
Leave Work Stress Where It Belongs - At Work
One of the most important things we can learn to do for our wellbeing is to disconnect from work and leave work at work.
Even on a regular day this can be hard, so when there has been some kind of big drama it’s near impossible. All of that bad mojo just seems like cling to our bodies like bad body odor.
But if we are intentional about letting go of the stressful event, it’s much easier to do.
Here are a few ideas.
1) Talk It Out & Vent
Once you’ve had some time to calm yourself and reflect on the event, it can help to talk it through with someone not involved.
Before you leave the office for the day, go have a chat sesh with your work BFF or a colleague who you trust, someone who forms part of your support network at work.
Get your thoughts and emotions out of your system. Just expressing your feelings and explaining your thoughts can feel like your unloading tons of weight.
Be careful not to demonize anyone in the conversation, try and present a neutral account of the events - but be open about how it affected you and why.
2) Kick, Punch Or Throw Something
Sometimes, you gotta physically get those pent up emotions out of you. Physically releasing anger, frustration, stress, etc. is one of the best ways to start recovery.
You gotta “feel it to heal it” as they say.
So, if you have a gym at work or belong to one, go there right after work.
If they’ve got a punching bag, that’s ideal. Grab a pair of gloves and just beat the shit out of that bag. If not, try throwing weighted medicine balls.
Basically, anything where you can get your anger out physically can work. And when you do, it feels so relieving and liberating. Plus, you’re getting a killer workout too!
3) Make A Note & Let That Shit Go
Decide on what the next step is that you want to take, and put a reminder in your calendar or on a sticky note before you leave the office. This way, when you make a note, you’re brain can let that shit go for the night.
For example, you might decide that you want to speak to the colleague you fell out with tomorrow afternoon.
Or maybe you want to write up meeting minutes the following morning.
Whatever it is, decide on it before you leave and then write a reminder in your calendar.
That way, you don’t need to spend your evening at home wondering what you should do next.
4) Scream Therapy
If everything is energy, then after an argument, you have all kinds of bad energy coursing through your system.
One of the best ways to get that energy out is to scream it out!
On your drive home after work, pull over somewhere safe and secluded. Roll up your windows and then, just start yelling, cursing, screaming, etc.
The louder the better.
Get all the raw negative emotions out of your system. And, when you do, it’s guaranteed to make you feel a million times better.
When you’re done, roll down the windows and take a breather with some fresh air for a few minutes, then head home.
5) Pit-Stop On The Way Home
If you need some reflection time rather than scream therapy, then stop by somewhere calm and quiet on the way home from work. It could be a park, a lookout point or even just a coffee shop.
The point is to work through the feelings you have about the conflict away from the safe haven that is your home.
You could even invite a friend to join you for a coffee and a chat to help move your thoughts away from the negativity before you finally head home.
Become A Conflict Whisperer
Have you noticed that some people just seem to exude calm?
No matter what the conflict, they somehow find a way to diffuse it and before you know it, everyone’s sitting in a circle singing Kum-Ba-Yah.
Some people can even be involved in a heated conflict themselves and the very next minute be playing best buds with their previous nemesis.
This is because arguments don’t have to be a big deal - not if we don’t allow them to be.
And, whatever the outcome of the argument at work, we need to protect ourselves and our energy first.
By seeing disagreements as a natural part of human interaction, we can start to manage them instead of running away from them.
Viewing them in the right way and knowing what to do when they crop up will also help us to be less affected by arguments, take less stress home with us, and be generally happier and less stressed.
So, don’t let arguments get you down.