Since arriving in London, England, I have opted to do various temporary jobs to earn extra cash. In these jobs, I often share an office with six or seven others.
While everyone has their own desk, the arrangement is open and almost creates a team atmosphere.
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However, the downside is I cannot pretend that I don’t know what’s going on. As much as I try to ignore things like phone conversations, or just conversations in general, I tend to overhear and everyone hears mine, as well. That’s why when there are people who are arguing and I walk into that tense space, it cannot be ignored. But how do you handle it? How do you deal with workplace conflict?
Whether it’s from your boss, colleague or client, no one has the right to verbally abuse you.
“It’s only worsened if your boss tells you to ‘tough it out.’ No one should take any kind of abuse, even if its verbal,” says Cassandra L. Gierden, career coach from Prophet Coaching.
If you are witness to this behaviour there are steps you can take, says career expert Karen Young.
“Politely ask them to take their discussion somewhere more private so as not to disturb clients, (or) excuse yourself and seek the advice of your immediate supervisor,” she says.
If they try to make you take sides decline.
“Realizing that you will seldom be given the full story behind a disagreement, you run the real risk of taking a strong position based on half-truths. This will damage your credibility and reputation (which could affect your job future),” says Young. “You may make enemies of co-workers or supervisory staff.”
Gierden suggests strengthening your boundaries.
“Boundaries are only what people can NOT do around you.
“You can’t change people, however, you can ask them to respect you when they are working with you. It could be as simple as ‘I find it offensive when people use foul language. I ask that you refrain from using it around me.’”
If it’s not honoured then take the next step. Inform them you will either speak to someone in human resources, discuss this with their superior, or cease to do business with them.
What if you are witness to office bullying or unfair treatment — should you speak out? Young suggests asking yourself: Is this your battle to fight? Can the subordinate handle it or is assistance required? Is he or she able to lodge a complaint? If not should it be your assistance or someone else’s? Have you suffered injustice and is this an opportunity to speak up?
“A decision to take action should be first well-thought through. If deemed necessary, action taken should include a report on exactly what time you witnessed incidents, who was involved, time and place — report fact, not speculation. The report should be taken to your supervisor. Refrain from talking about the incident to co-workers,” Young advises.
Gierden suggests considering others’ boundaries. It’s healthy to know we all have different boundaries and because it may not be yours, it is easy to cross others if we aren’t aware.
“Sometimes we wish people would treat us differently, however, we constantly do it ourselves so we almost make it acceptable. Challenge yourself,” suggests
Gierden. “Understand and read up on your rights as an employee. Companies do not own you and it’s important to be educated in these matters.”
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