4 Things You Should Do Immediately After an Argument at Work

July 08, 2019

Do you know what to do after you have an argument with a colleague at work?

Generally, we try to be our best selves in the office. We endeavor to minimize conflict and interpersonal tension, avoid arguments and bite our tongues even when we disagree with what’s being said.

Being able to manage our emotions in the workplace shows our co-workers that we can control how we act in challenging situations and that we’ve developed our Emotional Intelligence (EI) enough that we can listen and make ourselves heard without losing our temper.

But if you’ve found yourself on the other side of an explosive argument, what can you do to rebuild the relationship and your reputation? Keep reading to find out:

1. Book an In-Person Meeting

No matter your seniority level, the last thing you want to do is hash out an argument with a colleague via email. Not only do you not want a paper trail of interpersonal conflict, but elements like body language, facial expression, tone, and nuance get entirely lost when communicating via email.

When you feel ready, take a few deep breaths and walk to their desk or office and ask to have a face-to-face chat. Taking the first step, and meeting in person, shows respect for the other person and helps set the tone for a productive conversation.

2. Say You’re Sorry

Be genuine with your apology, and be specific with why you’re apologizing. Referencing the tone of your voice or something specific you said shows that you’re willing to admit culpability, and helps the other person feel validated in their experience.  Also, avoid using blaming language like “I’m sorry that you…” whenever possible.

You should always be sincere: acknowledge your actions and how they have affected your coworkers, and apologize for causing harm. Keeping the peace and preserving your workplace relationships should be a higher priority than pride and your ego. 

3. Show Honest Appreciation

The easiest way to move on from a conflict is to apologize first, and then show the other person that you appreciate them. Making the other person feel important is essential, so say something like:

“Thank you for suggesting that we take a break to regroup after I lost my temper. I appreciate that.”

Again: being specific here is vital because it shows that you were paying attention to the other person and what they were saying, doing, and thinking.

4. Extend the Olive Branch

Depending on the severity of the argument, your relationship with the other person might not bounce back right away even if you follow the steps we’ve outlined above.

Offer the other person an opportunity to tell you what they need to resolve the situation. Be specific, and say something like:

“What can I do to smooth things over and resolve this?”

If the other person isn’t ready to talk yet or acts defensively during your conversation, don’t force it. Say something like, “I’m always open to discussing this topic with you. Please come see me whenever you feel ready.”

This puts the ball in their court and allows you to exit the situation gracefully, and respectful of the other person’s feelings.

Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

As our workplace teams become more diverse, “soft skills” like Emotional Intelligence become more important to develop than ever. Sign up for our upcoming fall courses, or contact us for more information about our training programs.