5 Steps When Two of Your Coworkers Are Fighting


By Harvard Business Review
July 28, 2020

People disagree at work. That’s a given. But what if there’s an all-out war between two of your coworkers? What’s the right way to respond? Try these steps the next time you find yourself in the middle of a coworker battle:

ALLOW VENTING: “People often just want a safe place to vent, and in doing so, may figure out on their own what they want to do,” says Anna Ranieri, a career counselor and executive coach. Make an effort to get both sides of the story.

EMPATHIZE: While listening to your colleague, show you understand. But “don’t endorse one person’s point of view,” Ranieri says. If you’re being pushed to take a side, make it clear you won’t.

PROBLEM-SOLVE TOGETHER: If your colleagues want your advice, Roderick Kramer, a social psychologist and a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, suggests you think with each of them, or just the person confiding in you, about all the possible options. “You should be more in problem-solving mode than gossip mode.”

BROKER A DÉTENTE: Don’t rush to sit them down together, however. “Getting people into a room and letting them duke it out is not responsible,” says Kramer. Of course, if the conflict has reached a crescendo, then you may have no option but to pull them into a meeting and quickly get to the root of the problem.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS: If the situation is outside your comfort zone, give one or both coworkers a next step to take, says Ranieri. Suggest they speak with someone outside the team hierarchy — perhaps an ombudsman, or someone from human resources.

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.



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