On average, we spend a third of our day in the workplace. Understandably, and given the large amount of time that we spend with colleagues every day, it is not uncommon for frictions and arguments to arise. Office disputes can make our working lives uncomfortable and awkward, and a tense atmosphere at work can also contribute to reduced productivity and increased absenteeism. In this article we take a look at the main causes of arguments at work and at the best course of action that any employee should take when faced with a problem at work.
The most common causes of arguments in the workplace
The causes of arguments at work are varied. According to research carried out by human resources professionals, personality clashes are one of the most common problems. We all take different approaches to work, so having to spend eight hours a day with someone who does not share our view of how things should be done can be frustrating and irritating.
However, the range of reasons why arguments in the office start is not limited to personality conflicts. According to researchers, office workers commonly argue over how high or low should the heating or air conditioning be set, as it is difficult to find a temperature that pleases everyone in the office. Other common causes of arguments include disorganisation, perceived unfairness, being loud when talking on the phone, poor leadership skills, lack of cooperation, being overly competitive, lack of compliance with company rules, and misunderstandings.
Preventing arguments in the office
Instead of waiting until a problem develops, it is always wiser to be proactive and take the necessary steps to avoid office arguments. Maintaining clear and honest communication with co-workers is an essential tool in preventing arguments in the workplace, as inadequate communication is the main cause of misunderstandings that can easily escalate into full-blown arguments. If you feel that the behaviour of a colleague is disrupting your work, make a point of bringing the subject up with the person involved without making accusations and avoiding criticism. It is also important to avoid gossiping or complaining about a colleague’s behaviour to other co-workers.
Although frustration and anger at a colleague’s behavior can easily bottle up, you should avoid raising your voice or discussing problems when you feel emotional. Arguments can be prevented by being rational and calm and waiting until you find the right time to discuss any issues that might be bothering you.
Steps to solve arguments and disputes in the workplace
Conflict and arguments in the office may arise even when you have done your best to prevent them. When that happens, there are a series of steps that you should take to resolve them. First of all, find the adequate moment to sit down with your co-worker and explain exactly what is bothering you and why you would like the conflict to be resolved. Avoid ‘personalising” the conflict and stick to the behaviour that is disruptive, focussing on the possible solutions to the conflict. It is also important to be ready to accept different opinions, so keep an open mind and do your best to understand your colleague’s point of view.
Whenever an argument arises in the office, you should try to solve the matter informally first. If that does not work and the causes of conflict persist, you may want to bring up the subject in private with your immediate supervisor or with someone at Human Resources. Before taking this step you should ensure that you have done your best to solve the issue with your co-worker, as taking things further without attempting to solve things informally could escalate the problem.
A healthy and positive working atmosphere should be a priority for employers and employees alike. By avoiding unnecessary conflict, being considerate, and addressing issues promptly with other members of staff, you can contribute to a better working environment.