Avoiding Workplace Animosity


Avoiding Workplace Animosity

We may do and say things around our place of work and not realise the impact or extent to which our actions and words may affect others.

It’s important to be aware that, as we all learn from a young age, actions have consequences – cause and effect – and a simple change in the method used to reach a particular outcome may lead to avoiding a potential problem and allow for objectives to be achieved in a more efficient and effective manner.

Cause and Effect

As a result of a busy workload, we might at times opt for an approach that most suits our own individual needs so that we can progress and focus on our own goals, rather than considering how the approach taken may impact those around us and trying to find a balance that works for everyone.

For example, we may send a ‘quick email’ letting a colleague know that a procedure was followed incorrectly and the correct process should be adhered to. However, we could have sought out the staff member and had a face to face conversation to make them aware that, whilst what they were trying to achieve was great, there is another method that may be easier for them and gets the job done that bit quicker. Remember, text holds no tone and can easily be misinterpreted.

In addition, when being critical in the workplace, it’s important to focus on the positives, not the negatives, and what you want to get out of the situation. People generally don’t respond well to negativity and criticism can be made constructive by letting the person know what they did well and what they could do better. Practice makes improvement after all. Support your staff and help shape their performance instead of persistently pointing out the flaws.

Happy staff are productive staff and, since your staff are the people who keep the cogs of the business wheel turning, it’s important to look after them. Staff are your most valuable asset.

"Happiness leads to greater levels of profits for companies that take the right steps to recognise and engage workers."

When communicating with a team member in the office, remember that an account of events from a third party is speculative unless it comes from ‘the horse’s mouth’ and repeating perspectives and opinions of other people can often be more harmful than good.

You may not even know that you’re doing it so beware of GOSSIP: Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details which are not confirmed as true (as defined by Google).

Try to use positive communication tactics and provide general examples as evidence to demonstrate a point, follow up that point with questions about how the recipient of your now constructive criticism could improve, then make recommendations yourself.

Imagine you’re the store manager of a retail outlet, one of your team members, Sheryl, informs you that another team member, Mitch, sold a new product without any associated accessories or extended warranty. You’ve been conducting a marketing campaign for the past six months in preparation to launch the product and the RRP advised by the supplier has to be strictly adhered to. The profits you make are on accessories and extended warranty. You barely cover your own expenses with the sale Mitch made. Below are some examples of how you could respond.

Good example:

  • [Positive feedback] “It was great to see that you sold a customer a new product on Friday”
  • [Generalise the problem without using negativity or mentioning others – what could have been done better]: “It’s quite possible that we could have sold additional items that accompany that product to increase the sale”
  • [Ask the staff member to suggest their own improvements]: How do you think we could have achieved that?
  • [Recommend your own suggestions]: Perhaps upselling strategies could be implemented so that accessories or extended warranty could accompany the sale of that item

Bad example:

Cartoon example

  • “Sheryl said that on Friday you sold a product without extended warranty or the array of accessories that could have accompanied that item. We now make no profit on that sale at all. You need to do better and make sure you implement upselling strategies to make more profit on sales”.

If it is necessary to use examples to demonstrate a particular point, it might be better that those examples be generalised, as mentioned above, or that they be conveyed by the person who gave the example in the first place, providing they are willing to communicate their point in a constructively critical method.

Good example:

  • Sheryl speaks to Mitch and states: “I noticed you sold a new product on Friday which was good to see. Do you know about using upselling techniques to push extended warranty and accessories? I only ask because I had to make a note to remind myself and wondered if you were aware or needed some help?”

When a staff member is advised that other people have been talking about them, they then might wonder who, why, and how often. If they are made aware of the person making observations about them to others, that might change their behaviour towards that person. Adverse and negative results may arise afterwards such as bullying or staff feeling scrutinised, victimised, or ostracised. Hearsay may also lead to ‘he said/she said’ workplace gossip, the unnecessary involvement of other team members and, subsequently, conflict/animosity.

Prevent potential problems before they escalate by using a reasonable, rational and generalised/impartial approach with the desired objective in mind by talking to team members face to face, or mediating and managing meetings involving multiple staff to indirectly clear the air before the fog thickens.

Create a more comfortable and positive working environment and remember that people need constructive criticism – to learn how they can do things better and improve rather than to focus on mistakes.

Resolve conflict constructively and continuously improve.


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