How to diffuse workplace drama

Workplace politics aren’t fun for anyone in involved – and yet, they seem to be rife in various working contexts.

On top of this, diffusing that drama can be very tricky.

Whether you’re in the eye of the storm or simply observing, there are things you can do to help ease tensions and make the workplace less volatile.

Charlotte Davies, a career expert at LinkedIn, says there are key steps to take.

Ignore, then action 

Disagreements can easily escalate when emotions run high.

Charlotte says: ‘If you sense a situation is becoming heated, don’t respond straight away.

‘If the dispute takes place in person, suggest re-grouping at a later date.

‘Meanwhile, if the conversation happens via email, wait for at least 20 to 30 minutes before replying. Use this time to think clearly and logically about how to respond.

‘This breathing space can often make you realise what may feel like a personal attack is someone merely voicing their perspective.’

This pause can help you get the result you want.

When in doubt talk it out 

Sharing how you feel can be intimidating, but it can also help bring about change.

Charlotte says: ‘Face-to-face verbal communication leaves little room for misinterpretation and can be a better way to resolve uncomfortable and sensitive situations.

‘It’s essential to clearly outline the points you want to get across – write them down beforehand if you think that will help – and to listen carefully to the other person when they do the same.’

Use a mediator 

This is where someone outside needs to get involved.

Charlotte suggests: ‘If communication has broken down between two people, including a neutral party in the conversation could ensure both parties are heard and given an opportunity to voice their side of the story.

‘Speak to your HR team about this in the first instance.’

Don’t burn bridges 

Think carefully before acting – as you don’t want to ruin relationships forever.

Charlotte says: ‘If you make the decision to resign, ensuring you’ve done everything to resolve workplace drama is imperative for peace of mind.

‘Expressing your appreciation for the opportunity, your experiences, or the relationships you built in the role, goes a long way.

‘Even if it hasn’t always been rosy at your current workplace, it’s a small world, so you never know when you might come across previous employers or colleagues again.’

Be open about why you’re leaving 

If you’re going to bring up drama in an exit interview, do so professionally.

‘When resigning, it’s essential to share open and transparent feedback in a positive professional manner,’ she advises.

‘Employers will value your honesty, especially if it’s something they haven’t quite done right to keep you happy – as it could inspire some change to prevent others from leaving for the same reason.’

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