Reducing Tension With a Co-worker

Reviewed Jul 11, 2017

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Summary

  • Talk things over.
  • Avoid emphasizing your differences.
  • Examine your own part in the tension.
  • Clarify what you’re not saying.

Are you experiencing uneasy feelings with someone in your office? Maybe the two of you have clashed verbally in recent weeks. Did you disagree over something trivial? Or, did you fail to see eye-to-eye on an important project? 

While a single event can cause tension, you and a co-worker might find that you’re caught up in “job competition.” Job insecurity can cause any of us to behave in less than ideal ways. 

It can help to talk things over.

Preparing to talk

  • Examine your own part in the tension. Try to figure out how you might have contributed to it in any way. Did you speak too harshly to your co-worker last week? Did you flaunt the fact that the boss bragged about you?

In order to perceive more about the problem, you’ve got to be mature enough to ask: “Am I guilty of acting inappropriately?”

  • Schedule a time to talk with your co-worker. Tell her why you want to meet. This gives both of you time to prepare. For example, you might say, “I feel there’s a lot of tension between us. I’d like to talk about it, so that we can figure out how to reduce it.”
  • Rehearse what you will say. This will help you appear less emotional and more logical. It also might be helpful to “role play” with your spouse or a trusted friend. This will help you figure out what’s important to state and what’s better left unsaid.

As you rehearse for your meeting, listen carefully to your own voice. People are more influenced by how you say something than by what you say. Try to sound both helpful and professional in tone.

Getting a dialogue underway

As you speak with your co-worker, these suggestions should help you get on track:

  • Avoid emphasizing your differences. Work to build common ground every step of the way. Use words such as “we” and phrases such as “both of us”—implying that you’re working toward the same goals.
  • Keep your own “venting” to a minimum. State your side of the situation and keep quiet as much as possible. Let the other person talk. Listening well shows respect. And, if your co-worker will talk openly, this will help him let off some of the steam he’s been directing at you.
  • Clarify what you’re not saying. For example, you might say: “Brian, I don’t mean to imply that you’re not doing a good job. You are. I am just trying to see how we can make things run more smoothly between us.”
  • Ask questions to build common ground. For example, you might say, “Do you think we’re clashing because we’re both under stress?” or “Do you feel I’ve been fair with you in the past?”
  • Try to address what’s causing the tension. This may be the hardest part of your discussion—especially if the other person doesn’t want to admit jealousy or fear about job security (see next section). It’s tough to resolve any problem if you can’t uncover the cause of it.
  • Ask for input on how to fix matters. Don’t pretend to have all the answers yourself. This will only add to the tension. It takes two willing people to cool tension, so realize that the other person must assume “ownership” in resolving matters. Say, “I’m open to hearing your ideas.”
  • Don’t expect instant results. You may have to wait for your co-worker to soften. This person may have to think about your conversation.

Addressing job jealousy and fears

So what if you sense that change isn’t coming? Your inner voice tells you, “My co-worker doesn’t want to cooperate. My plan isn’t working.”

If this happens, your co-worker may see you as some kind of threat. Your talents and abilities somehow cause your co-worker to feel jealousy or pain. That, of course, is his problem. You can’t change things, but you can cope. 

Try these suggestions:

  • Keep your nose to the grindstone. This is your best option for now. Don’t use up your energy agonizing over things. An unsympathetic co-worker may hope that you will exhaust yourself in emotional turmoil. This way, you’ll lose your work focus.

“My co-worker, Sarah, was angry that I was up for a promotion,” says Jackie, a retail supervisor. “Sarah even told several lies about me. Because Sarah is kin to the owner of our company, my boss wouldn’t reprimand her.”

Jackie says she simply turned her full attention to doing her work superbly well. “I refused to say another word to anyone about my jealous co-worker. I worked harder and focused on doing my best. I got the promotion.”

  • Don’t feed the gossip mill. Keep quiet. This ability to hold your tongue shows you’re a “class act.” Besides, if you gossip about your co-worker, the tension itself can start to multiply. As it snowballs, the tension will be harder to tame.

If tension builds further, try to find a mediator. All of us have the right to work in a reasonably harmonious atmosphere. If your co-worker acts in ways that adversely affect your mental health, talk to a supervisor. Ask for intervention.

Perhaps an outside mediator could speak with you and your co-worker, offering fresh input in settling your differences. Then, you could meet with the mediator again in three weeks—and again in three months. This is one way to hold your co-worker accountable for her actions. 

By Judi Light Hopson
Source: Judi Light Hopson is the co-author of the Prentice Hall textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress.

Summary

  • Talk things over.
  • Avoid emphasizing your differences.
  • Examine your own part in the tension.
  • Clarify what you’re not saying.

Are you experiencing uneasy feelings with someone in your office? Maybe the two of you have clashed verbally in recent weeks. Did you disagree over something trivial? Or, did you fail to see eye-to-eye on an important project? 

While a single event can cause tension, you and a co-worker might find that you’re caught up in “job competition.” Job insecurity can cause any of us to behave in less than ideal ways. 

It can help to talk things over.

Preparing to talk

  • Examine your own part in the tension. Try to figure out how you might have contributed to it in any way. Did you speak too harshly to your co-worker last week? Did you flaunt the fact that the boss bragged about you?

In order to perceive more about the problem, you’ve got to be mature enough to ask: “Am I guilty of acting inappropriately?”

  • Schedule a time to talk with your co-worker. Tell her why you want to meet. This gives both of you time to prepare. For example, you might say, “I feel there’s a lot of tension between us. I’d like to talk about it, so that we can figure out how to reduce it.”
  • Rehearse what you will say. This will help you appear less emotional and more logical. It also might be helpful to “role play” with your spouse or a trusted friend. This will help you figure out what’s important to state and what’s better left unsaid.

As you rehearse for your meeting, listen carefully to your own voice. People are more influenced by how you say something than by what you say. Try to sound both helpful and professional in tone.

Getting a dialogue underway

As you speak with your co-worker, these suggestions should help you get on track:

  • Avoid emphasizing your differences. Work to build common ground every step of the way. Use words such as “we” and phrases such as “both of us”—implying that you’re working toward the same goals.
  • Keep your own “venting” to a minimum. State your side of the situation and keep quiet as much as possible. Let the other person talk. Listening well shows respect. And, if your co-worker will talk openly, this will help him let off some of the steam he’s been directing at you.
  • Clarify what you’re not saying. For example, you might say: “Brian, I don’t mean to imply that you’re not doing a good job. You are. I am just trying to see how we can make things run more smoothly between us.”
  • Ask questions to build common ground. For example, you might say, “Do you think we’re clashing because we’re both under stress?” or “Do you feel I’ve been fair with you in the past?”
  • Try to address what’s causing the tension. This may be the hardest part of your discussion—especially if the other person doesn’t want to admit jealousy or fear about job security (see next section). It’s tough to resolve any problem if you can’t uncover the cause of it.
  • Ask for input on how to fix matters. Don’t pretend to have all the answers yourself. This will only add to the tension. It takes two willing people to cool tension, so realize that the other person must assume “ownership” in resolving matters. Say, “I’m open to hearing your ideas.”
  • Don’t expect instant results. You may have to wait for your co-worker to soften. This person may have to think about your conversation.

Addressing job jealousy and fears

So what if you sense that change isn’t coming? Your inner voice tells you, “My co-worker doesn’t want to cooperate. My plan isn’t working.”

If this happens, your co-worker may see you as some kind of threat. Your talents and abilities somehow cause your co-worker to feel jealousy or pain. That, of course, is his problem. You can’t change things, but you can cope. 

Try these suggestions:

  • Keep your nose to the grindstone. This is your best option for now. Don’t use up your energy agonizing over things. An unsympathetic co-worker may hope that you will exhaust yourself in emotional turmoil. This way, you’ll lose your work focus.

“My co-worker, Sarah, was angry that I was up for a promotion,” says Jackie, a retail supervisor. “Sarah even told several lies about me. Because Sarah is kin to the owner of our company, my boss wouldn’t reprimand her.”

Jackie says she simply turned her full attention to doing her work superbly well. “I refused to say another word to anyone about my jealous co-worker. I worked harder and focused on doing my best. I got the promotion.”

  • Don’t feed the gossip mill. Keep quiet. This ability to hold your tongue shows you’re a “class act.” Besides, if you gossip about your co-worker, the tension itself can start to multiply. As it snowballs, the tension will be harder to tame.

If tension builds further, try to find a mediator. All of us have the right to work in a reasonably harmonious atmosphere. If your co-worker acts in ways that adversely affect your mental health, talk to a supervisor. Ask for intervention.

Perhaps an outside mediator could speak with you and your co-worker, offering fresh input in settling your differences. Then, you could meet with the mediator again in three weeks—and again in three months. This is one way to hold your co-worker accountable for her actions. 

By Judi Light Hopson
Source: Judi Light Hopson is the co-author of the Prentice Hall textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress.

Summary

  • Talk things over.
  • Avoid emphasizing your differences.
  • Examine your own part in the tension.
  • Clarify what you’re not saying.

Are you experiencing uneasy feelings with someone in your office? Maybe the two of you have clashed verbally in recent weeks. Did you disagree over something trivial? Or, did you fail to see eye-to-eye on an important project? 

While a single event can cause tension, you and a co-worker might find that you’re caught up in “job competition.” Job insecurity can cause any of us to behave in less than ideal ways. 

It can help to talk things over.

Preparing to talk

  • Examine your own part in the tension. Try to figure out how you might have contributed to it in any way. Did you speak too harshly to your co-worker last week? Did you flaunt the fact that the boss bragged about you?

In order to perceive more about the problem, you’ve got to be mature enough to ask: “Am I guilty of acting inappropriately?”

  • Schedule a time to talk with your co-worker. Tell her why you want to meet. This gives both of you time to prepare. For example, you might say, “I feel there’s a lot of tension between us. I’d like to talk about it, so that we can figure out how to reduce it.”
  • Rehearse what you will say. This will help you appear less emotional and more logical. It also might be helpful to “role play” with your spouse or a trusted friend. This will help you figure out what’s important to state and what’s better left unsaid.

As you rehearse for your meeting, listen carefully to your own voice. People are more influenced by how you say something than by what you say. Try to sound both helpful and professional in tone.

Getting a dialogue underway

As you speak with your co-worker, these suggestions should help you get on track:

  • Avoid emphasizing your differences. Work to build common ground every step of the way. Use words such as “we” and phrases such as “both of us”—implying that you’re working toward the same goals.
  • Keep your own “venting” to a minimum. State your side of the situation and keep quiet as much as possible. Let the other person talk. Listening well shows respect. And, if your co-worker will talk openly, this will help him let off some of the steam he’s been directing at you.
  • Clarify what you’re not saying. For example, you might say: “Brian, I don’t mean to imply that you’re not doing a good job. You are. I am just trying to see how we can make things run more smoothly between us.”
  • Ask questions to build common ground. For example, you might say, “Do you think we’re clashing because we’re both under stress?” or “Do you feel I’ve been fair with you in the past?”
  • Try to address what’s causing the tension. This may be the hardest part of your discussion—especially if the other person doesn’t want to admit jealousy or fear about job security (see next section). It’s tough to resolve any problem if you can’t uncover the cause of it.
  • Ask for input on how to fix matters. Don’t pretend to have all the answers yourself. This will only add to the tension. It takes two willing people to cool tension, so realize that the other person must assume “ownership” in resolving matters. Say, “I’m open to hearing your ideas.”
  • Don’t expect instant results. You may have to wait for your co-worker to soften. This person may have to think about your conversation.

Addressing job jealousy and fears

So what if you sense that change isn’t coming? Your inner voice tells you, “My co-worker doesn’t want to cooperate. My plan isn’t working.”

If this happens, your co-worker may see you as some kind of threat. Your talents and abilities somehow cause your co-worker to feel jealousy or pain. That, of course, is his problem. You can’t change things, but you can cope. 

Try these suggestions:

  • Keep your nose to the grindstone. This is your best option for now. Don’t use up your energy agonizing over things. An unsympathetic co-worker may hope that you will exhaust yourself in emotional turmoil. This way, you’ll lose your work focus.

“My co-worker, Sarah, was angry that I was up for a promotion,” says Jackie, a retail supervisor. “Sarah even told several lies about me. Because Sarah is kin to the owner of our company, my boss wouldn’t reprimand her.”

Jackie says she simply turned her full attention to doing her work superbly well. “I refused to say another word to anyone about my jealous co-worker. I worked harder and focused on doing my best. I got the promotion.”

  • Don’t feed the gossip mill. Keep quiet. This ability to hold your tongue shows you’re a “class act.” Besides, if you gossip about your co-worker, the tension itself can start to multiply. As it snowballs, the tension will be harder to tame.

If tension builds further, try to find a mediator. All of us have the right to work in a reasonably harmonious atmosphere. If your co-worker acts in ways that adversely affect your mental health, talk to a supervisor. Ask for intervention.

Perhaps an outside mediator could speak with you and your co-worker, offering fresh input in settling your differences. Then, you could meet with the mediator again in three weeks—and again in three months. This is one way to hold your co-worker accountable for her actions. 

By Judi Light Hopson
Source: Judi Light Hopson is the co-author of the Prentice Hall textbook, Burnout to Balance: EMS Stress.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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