Do you find yourself wondering...

  • Why there is always so much conflict and frustration at work?
  • Why stress levels are over the top most days?
  • Why we can't just do our jobs and get along?

Do you wish you knew how to...

  • Stop the jerk at work who keeps talking and talking and never listens.
  • Challenge the creep who always has an excuse for being late.
  • Shut the cry baby up, who always complains about too much work.

Until now we have not gone deep enough to find the hidden agendas that keep office behavior swirling and whirling with so much judgement, blame and attack. The mantra in most work places sounds like a robust cheer of "his fault, her fault, their fault."

Frustrations at work are understandable.

We shrug and say "that's just the way people are" and do a work around only to go home with that annoyance and upset stuck in our gut. What most of us never really get is why people behave the way they do and what can be done about it.

The problem isn't always other people's behavior, either. How many times have you regretted something you said or did and thought, "Why was I that stupid again?"

First, it's time to debunk the myth that you are supposed to be different at work than you are at home. That is simply not true and it's really impossible long-term. That is, unless you have figured out how to develop two separate brains and can switch one on and turn the other off.

What's wrong with shoving feelings underground?

That's called compartmentalization and sure, at times it is better to hold the thought and keep it to yourself. You don't want to tell your colleague he is a jerk in the heat of an upset. You may want to wait and tell a friend about your annoyances when you leave work. However, a steady diet of stuffing feelings and behaving one way at work and another outside of work will eventually cause even more stress and distress.

Here is the good and the bad of putting our behavior in watertight little compartments that never are supposed to touch.

Compartmentalization is a short-term coping mechanism to avoid mental discomfort and anxiety. It can help you put an emotional bandage around a trauma and isolate the pain till it begins to subside. However, if left alone the upset, fear, hurt, betrayal will bleed into other situations that are not really related and cause even more upset, fear, hurt or betrayal.

Here are 5 ways for you to help change the environment at work:

  • Listen for emotion and repetition: Phrases or words that people tend to repeat or are out of alignment need to be questioned. If you say or hear "I'm not upset" or "It really doesn't matter" or "Whatever you want" it is time to nip the pattern of denial or avoidance in the bud.
  • Pay attention to how you respond: ask questions rather than make statements. You can begin by saying, "If this did matter how would you handle it?" or "I would like to hear what you want as a solution".
  • Prioritize don't compartmentalize: Take the most important part of what needs to be discussed and ask for a time that you can meet and clear the air.
  • Keep it short: You can talk about the initial upset and not go into the entire life cycle of everything that has ever bothered you. Make a commitment to say what is the initial concern and then give time for the other person to digest.
  • Meet again: Plan another meeting to make an agreement on how to move forward. Have two or three points that will be check points over the next few weeks to see how things are progressing.

Once you move from compartmentalized thoughts and feelings to prioritizing them, you can make real progress in handling conflict faster and with less tension and disappointment. Remember, you are part of the interpersonal equation and it is not just about "him, her, or them."