Conflict Resolution in the Workplace: How to Tame a Toxic Co-Worker

We've all had experiences with co-workers who drive us crazy. We get hooked into their personal problems, bad work habits, and irritating behaviors. These situations drain our souls and harm our organizations, because the strength of an organization is in its employees. When you find yourself entangled with a toxic co-worker, it’s time to employ some strategies for conflict resolution in the workplace. 

A 3-step method of “unhooking” to achieve conflict resolution in the workplace is described below:

Step 1: Unhook physically from the problem. It’s a fact that when you are angry or upset, physical activity can often help you calm down and see the situation more objectively. It may be impractical in the middle of a conflict to head to the gym for an hour, but you can do small things to calm yourself physically: take a walk in the hallway, take some deep breaths, step outside for a minute or go get a cold drink of water.

Step 2: Unhook mentally. To unhook mentally, we examine the conflict situation to understand how it occurred, and think about how we can change our behavior. You may or may not be able to change the other person, but you can at least change your approach to the situation. Ask yourself some questions to help you objectively analyze the situation, like: What are the facts here? What is his/her part, and what is MY part in this conflict? What are my options for handling this? What outcome am I looking for here and what are the potential consequences of my various options?

Step 3: Unhook verbally, by discussing the situation with the other party. Choose your language carefully by thinking about what to say to resolve the conflict, not perpetuate it. Try to use “I” statements to reduce potential defensiveness in the other party (“I feel ‘x’ …when ‘y’ happens …because of ‘z’ ….so I’d like to ‘abc’…”). When setting a new boundary with someone or suggesting a new way of doing things, state it clearly, without anger, in as few words as possible. Use positive, inclusive language and be sure to also listen respectfully to their ideas.

You may need to practice a few times before you are comfortable confronting difficult workplace situations, but these steps for conflict resolution in the workplace will help you begin to unhook from the toxic coworkers who are making your work life less than wonderful.

Workplace training videos provide clear “how to” steps to resolve conflict and model realistic behaviors to adopt (or avoid!).

For example, Working With You is Killing Me depicts specific steps for addressing conflict with difficult co-workers. It shows how to address disruptive behavior and set boundaries while remaining respectful and professional.

Other top-selling conflict management training videos include Right/Wrong to Win/Win: Peer to Peer Conflict Resolution and What To Do When Conflict Happens.