Skip to main content

How to Avoid Confrontations at the Office

Office politics may be more confusing and confrontational than nationwide politics.

Sure, there may not be as much at stake, but a terrible relationship between two employees can hurt the productivity and morale of an entire company.

So, how do you make sure that you’re not in the midst of one of these feuds and what can you do to ensure that your coworkers aren’t tied up in any negative relationships?

Examples in History

With all of the negative political discourse present in the modern era, it’s difficult to imagine leaders of two parties being good friends. But, Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, the Democrat speaker of the house and Republican president, respectively, established a great relationship that led to increased productivity in Washington, D.C. How did they reach this point?

Tip and “the Gipper” were able to find common ground and get a lot done in terms of compromising and meeting halfway on legislation. They sought to find commonalities and embrace these similarities instead of focusing on and exploiting differences in their ideologies.

So, how do you use their example in your life at work? The answer is simple: avoid topics that can stir up the emotional pot. There used to be a simple rule for polite conversation: don’t talk about politics or religion.

Stick to the Basics

Until you know the lay of the land with regard to your coworkers’ political and religious views, tread lightly. Eventually, you’ll develop a rapport with certain employees, but don’t push the envelope. And, if anything ever gets contentious, or is heading down that road, ABORT. It’s always better to take the high road when it comes to office disagreements.

Try saying something like: “I get your point of view on this; I just would prefer to not talk about it here at work.” There’s nothing that someone can say to that! It’s easy and smart to hide behind the cover of “being at work.” Also, it’s easy to portray a middle-of-the-road viewpoint, regardless of what you actually think.

No one likes the person at work who thrusts his or her views upon everyone else. The world could use a little more compromising and pleasantry, so try to be positive about everything and don’t take an entrenched position on anything.

Common Ground!

Another tactic is to actively seek out the interests of your coworkers and really stick to those topics of conversation. If they like sports, try to talk about their favorite teams and players. If they have a hobby like gardening or reading, maybe take an interest in what they are doing or reading.

It’s not that hard to be civil and social with people—everyone has things that he or she likes, and it’s easy to at least feign some level of interest in one of these activities. Talk about current events, pop culture, or what is happening in your local area. Trust me; it’s just easier to stick to the safe subjects than to wade into the waters of contention.

Above all else, just try to be kind to one another. That may sound like something that an elementary school teacher tells their students, but it still rings true at the office. There’s no point making enemies in the place in which you work. There’s nothing worse than hating going to work because you are in a major disagreement with a coworker.

Finally, and this may be tough for some people, if all else fails, be the one who meets in the middle, the one who says, you know what, I’ll suck it up and be wrong about this thing. If you concede a point or simply give in when it comes to an unimportant work issue, you won’t notice an hour after the given interaction, and it will score you big points in the long run.