Daily Archives: August 31, 2011

3 Tricks to Relieving Workplace Tension

WorkplaceTension_August2011_web With the fast pace of the work environment and the desire to succeed, stressful situations can come up between you and your peers. Whether it’s a misunderstanding regarding a deadline, a conflict over limited resources, or a debate over the direction of a project, a tense environment among co-workers can create roadblocks in the workplace. Here are a few tips for an open and relaxed environment that fosters conflict resolution.

1. Have a Real Conversation
If you’re dealing with a co-worker conflict or know a subject might be touchy, skip email or phone conversations when possible in favor of a face-to-face conversation. A casual, impromptu conversation can set the stage for a relaxed discussion in which all parties are open to the idea of focusing on resolving the problem instead of focusing on their own agendas. If you must schedule a meeting to talk, versus just stopping by, make sure your email, phone message, or conversation regarding the scheduled meeting is clear and open. Don’t overstate the conflict, instead request a time to talk about resolving the challenge. The quicker you can meet the better, since leaving time to dwell on the upcoming meeting can create unnecessary anxiety.

If you can’t have a face-to-face conversation, schedule a conference call where all involved parties can speak together, rather than separate calls with each individual. Having individual calls, and then later referencing each conversation, will not develop the same trust and open communication as a shared call. 

2. Gather Perspective
While you may only think there are two options in resolving a problem, either your own or the other party’s, talk with non-involved peers to get some perspective and brainstorm alternative answers. Keep in mind, a solution that isn’t from either party involved in the tense circumstances may be the best starting point for a resolution. Don’t get others involved just to gossip about the problem or recruit peers into seeing things your way. Have private and respectful conversations with the goal of seeing things from another point of view.

Try researching how competitors are handling similar challenges to help you think of additional ideas. Speak with your mentor and ask for direction or how they have handled a similar problem. By keeping an open mind, you may uncover a way out that wasn’t on the table, and your first discussion may just be starting points to the best resolution.

3. Take a Break
Rather than reacting quickly to a tense problem, if time allows, take a break. At first blush, a challenge can seem much worse than it actually is. We’ve all heard the saying “when one door closes a window opens,” and in the heat of the moment it can be hard to see the opportunities offered through that window. Another saying that holds true in conflict resolutions is “it’s best to sleep on it.” Letting emotions cool down and giving your brain time to focus on an answer rather than the frustration of the challenge can set the stage for a more relaxed resolution.

Resist getting caught up in the heat of the moment. Keeping your cool, considering alternative solutions, and working toward a mutual answer will be the most productive resolution.

By Rachel Rudisill