6 Ways to Recover From an Office Blow-up

Published: May 08, 2012

By Anita Bruzzese, freelance writer on topics related to workplace/career issues

Nothing gets the juices flowing faster at work than a tiff between colleagues. Angry words and loud voices can spark gossip for days, and co-workers are as mesmerized by that kind of interaction as if Mike Tyson just showed up for a title fight.

But it’s a whole different scenario if you’re the one involved at the center of the spat. You may be feeling angry, confused, hurt and perhaps even a bit worried about how the blow-up might hurt your career and possibly affect your reputation at the company.

While you may truly regret the blow-up or still be simmering deep down, the key after a public confrontation is to quickly patch up the damage and move on.

You need to:

·         Admit how you’re feeling. The office is no place to deal with feelings of hurt or anger; you’re better off unburdening yourself later to a trusted friend or family member. For right now, don’t cry in the stairwell or screech out of the parking lot in your car, or you’ll just add to the gossip.

·         Go to the bathroom. Psychological research has shown that the act of washing your hands can make you feel like you’re washing away bad feelings and help you start fresh. Do some deep belly breathing to ease your anxiety and look in the mirror to make sure your body language looks relaxed before returning to your desk.

·         Ask to meet privately. Don’t let a disagreement at work fester. It’s too important that teams function seamlessly, and an internal conflict can undermine goals and cause the boss to be very unhappy. Ask to meet in a conference room or even offsite in a coffee shop to settle a dispute with someone. If you try and talk with co-workers nearby, the other person’s ego may prompt him or her to overreact and may lead to another blow-up.

·         Show you mean it. Studies have shown that 93 percent of any message is delivered non-verbally. That means you shouldn’t approach the conversation with your arms tightly crossed and your eyes darting around the room. Calm your tone of voice, speak with hand gestures that are open, and use “I” statements (for example, “I feel there is a problem with my request and that you may be delaying the process with unnecessary research. That makes me feel frustrated because I can’t move forward with this project which I believe will bring in new clients.”)

·         Be gracious. If the other person makes a valid point, say so. If you’re proven wrong, admit it. If you owe the other person an apology, deliver it sincerely.

·         Keeping score. The goal of this conversation is not for someone to be proven right or wrong, but to agree on a resolution so that you can work together. You don’t have to be best friends, but if you want your career to stay on track then you must be someone who is not perceived to hold a grudge but rather focuses on moving forward.

At times, tensions at work may run high because there are so many demands. But just remember that you spend a lot of time with your colleagues, and not resolving an argument may add to your stress and prevent you from being as productive as possible. So in the end, smoothing things over makes a lot of sense.

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