In a perfect world, you get along with all of your co-workers. While you might not become best friends or spend time with each other out of the office, you get along well enough to work together. Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world, and sometimes, people don’t get along. Having to deal with a terrible colleague is stressful enough, but sometimes, it’s even worse when two co-workers hate each other, and you’re stuck between the two of them.
The essential piece advice that you need to take in a situation such as this is staying out of it. While you might get tempted to involve yourself in the situation, most times it isn’t productive. If one colleague is sitting there gossiping about how much they hate the other and you nod your head in agreement, you’re just adding to the toxicity and fueling the fire. Instead of bringing the high school back to the office, try one of these simple suggestions.
Change the Topic
While you can take drastic measures and decide to stop talking to John and Jane (let’s say those are their names) other than during meetings, emailing, or conferences; that might get awkward. However, it is an effective and most times low-confrontational way to avoid any drama. Unfortunately, if you like both John and Jane and want to remain friends with them, you can’t just cut them off.
When it comes to this type of case, the best thing to do is change the topic. If you’re having a conversation with one of them and notice that they start talking badly about the other, it’s time for you to distract them by steering the conversation in another direction. It is a bit of a cop-out, but it’s an extremely effective way for you to stop the gossip and avoid taking part in childish antics. Hopefully, John and Jane take the bait and allow you to direct them into a different conversation. They might even notice you changing the topic each time they start talking about each other and stop mentioning their name around you.
Politely Ask to Be Left Out of It
If you’re more of a fan of being clear and direct, then the changing of the topic method isn’t the best route for you to take. You should bluntly and professionally tell them what you want. If Jane is bad-mouthing John, it’s in your right to tell Jane that you wish to remain neutral in the situation, and it has nothing to do with you. It is possible to express what you want by being polite and empathetic. Let Jane know that you understand it might be difficult for her to work with him every day, but it’s best for your friendship with her if you don’t get pulled into it. You can also let her know that you are open to help make the situation better if either Jane or John is open to feedback or getting to the root of the issue.
Get Help from HR or Your Boss
It isn’t your responsibility to fix Jane and John’s issue, and it’s vital for you to remember that. You don’t need to be a mediator. If the situation doesn’t resolve itself over time, or it’s impacting you, or even their, ability to work, it might be time to turn to resources who are equipped to handle workplace conflicts.
While you might not want to come across as a gossip or a tattletale, sometimes it’s needed to approach your boss or HR with just enough information that enables them to look into the situation further. You can advise HR or your boss that you have noticed the tension between Jane and John, and you think it might be impacting their work.
It’s never fun to have co-workers battling with one another. It doesn’t matter if you like both of them, none of them, or one of them, the best thing to do is not get involved. When you include yourself, the problem becomes your problem, too. Also keep in mind that if you are Jane or John in these situations, try and think about how you might be affecting other colleagues.