Tax & Accounting Blog

Confrontations in the Cubicle

Accounting Firms, Business Practices, Professional Development May 2, 2014

Uncomfortable as they can be, conflicts at work are inevitable. And handling them with aplomb is an indispensable skill. The next time you find yourself in a confrontation at the office, try these tried-and-true strategies for resolution.

  1. Listen. If an irascible colleague barges into your office to complain, your first instinct might be to cut him off mid-sentence to defend yourself. Instead, stay calm and let him finish speaking. Try to figure out what he’s really upset about. If he’s hurling general accusations at you, ask for specific examples. The more effectively you clarify the real issue, the better you’ll understand his point of view and what can be done to fix the problem.
  2. Avoid accusations. Don’t use words that connote blame or hostile body language like scowls and clenched fists. Keep your voice and demeanor professional, controlled, and rational.
  3. Be positive. If you’ve had a good working relationship until now, remind your workmate of the joint projects you’ve completed successfully. Assure her that, based on your track record together, you feel confident that you’ll be able to resolve this issue.
  4. Find a solution. Tell your colleague you want to work with him to end the conflict. Ask what specifically he would like to see changed. If he has no answer, suggest meeting the next day to brainstorm. Follow through with the meeting and prepare an action plan for making changes. This can be an effective way to cope with chronic complainers who would rather gripe than work toward improvements.
  5. Get help. If you’re unable to resolve an ongoing clash with a coworker, you might need help from your manager or human resources. Ask whether your company has an HR manual that covers professional conduct and find out what formal channels exist for filing a complaint. Document specific incidents with dates for each – and the impact they’ve had on you – and know what solution you would like to see implemented.

How do you defuse office altercations? Share your own strategies below.