Every workplace is likely to have individuals who appear to go out of their way to criticize others, resulting in office conflicts, lowered morale, and a generally unpleasant atmosphere. As in the current financial climate, it is tough to find alternative employment; it is worth learning some simple yet practical approaches to help deal with difficult colleagues.
Avoidance will not Solve Workplace Conflict.
Although it is incredibly tempting to deal with overly critical colleagues by sending them to Coventry and deciding to refuse to engage with them, this avoidance technique is rarely the solution to coping with continuous criticism. Doing so may cause antagonism and result in further conflict or, at worst, receive either a verbal or written warning.
On average, most employees will spend approximately eight hours a day, five days a week, in a relatively confined space together, which means that purely on a practical level, it is virtually impossible to avoid another person altogether.
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Engage Critical Colleagues to Reduce Conflict
Learning how to engage rather than avoid difficult colleagues is a positive step towards establishing better working relationships. Take action back from the situation and try to list a few strengths about the individual concerned. Regardless of how much of a nightmare they have been, everyone has some powers; trying to be as objective as possible is a case. Attempting to understand where the other person is coming from and any reasons why they may be behaving in such a manner might help to gain a new perspective on the whole situation.
In the end, it comes down to working out a healthy balance between engaging the other person and learning to reflect without judgment to minimize any conflict.
Communication Skills Help Reduce Workplace Conflict
One of the best ways to help understand a critical colleague is to develop practical communications skills. Core skills required to communicate well include actively listening, reflecting the individual concerned, recognizing/using non-verbal forms of communication such as gestures and facial expressions, and understanding which forms of communication others prefer. For example, some people find one-to-one situations very anxiety-provoking, while others prefer to write an email or speak on the phone.
The key is first to identify the method of communication that will work best in any given situation and then establish when (coffee break, lunch, end of day or first thing) and where (canteen, outside the office) the other person appears to communicate most effectively with others around them.
As highlighted above, workplace conflict is widespread, and those who one finds overly critical are best faced rather than avoided. Communication skills are essential to building healthy relationships and increasing workplace morale, thus leading to a more favorable environment for all.