Office Conflict - How to Resolve Tension

The workplace brings people from all walks of life together. Individuals with their own beliefs, personalities, skills, and interests. Which is why it’s not a surprise when employee conflicts arise. 

That being said, mental health expert, Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge says, “coworkers who don't see eye to eye can still share a workspace for years, as long as they treat each other with respect.”

As more people gravitate towards working for companies whose values align with their own, a way to mitigate potential conflict is to have last-round interviewees meet their potential colleagues. “For candidates, meeting future teammates gives an insight into the team dynamics and the company culture, helping them make informed decisions about whether the position aligns with their goals and values,” shared Dr. Capanna-Hodge.

However, during those preliminary meet-and-greets, candidates and current employees are often on their best behavior, which may not give the best insights into compatibility.

When employees are not getting along, it can affect the office atmosphere. Dr. Capanna-Hodge says, “Tension between individuals may lead to a divided team, reduced collaboration and productivity, and a drop in morale. In the extreme, this ripple can lead to a toxic, high-conflict work environment.” 

She adds that unresolved issues between coworkers can really throw off the team's workflow and make the workplace feel a lot less welcoming.

Dr. Capanna-Hodge explained that there are steps that both HR and colleagues can take to try to resolve the conflict or find a middle ground.

For coworkers, she says:

If you're bumping heads with a coworker, first try to pinpoint what's really going on and think about what is the source of the tension. Maybe you are irritated when you shouldn’t be or maybe you are genuinely concerned about how their actions impact a project. 

Sometimes, a straightforward, friendly discussion can work wonders in clearing the air. Starting with something you both agree on, can diffuse conflict and create the platform for you to discuss concerns. Always keep things professional and respectful, as there is no place for big emotional responses in business, and it's a surefire way to shut any positive communication. If things get unprofessional, get support from HR or a supervisor who can help mediate and problem-solve.

Ultimately being as empathetic as possible helps you to not only see their side but helps to reduce your own feelings of irritation and can lead to better communication and a resolution you both can feel good about. 

For HR Dr. Capanna-Hodge suggests: 

When supervisors or HR professionals recognize employee conflict, the first step is to act promptly and proactively, ensuring the situation doesn't escalate to a full breakdown between employees. Start with active listening, making sure that each party feels heard while identifying the “real” issues behind the conflict. 

Working toward a solution or a compromise that both parties can stand behind is key. All teams have conflict, and a well-run team will learn and actually be stronger as a result when there is a well work culture in place that fosters good communication. 

Lastly, a good supervisor should follow up and make sure the problem is resolved and more importantly that the employee has what they need to prevent this conflict from happening again.  

She adds that while larger companies might lean on HR for a clear and formal mediation process, ensuring a neutral ground for airing grievances, smaller companies, where relationships are closer, might find an informal chat more effective, fostering a direct but empathetic dialogue. 

“As the pandemic world continues to influence how every workplace operates, creating a well work culture is the key to attracting and retaining employees who feel motivated, productive, and happy to be at work,” Dr. Capanna-Hodge says. “That means today’s companies need to have active initiatives that support communication and conflict, mental health, and trust that foster a healthy work culture.” 

Expert:

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, Mental Health Expert – WELL-WORK Culture™, www.drroseann.com/about-us

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