14th August 2018
by Charlotte Wilson
Things are bound to get tense, life is tense, and if life is tense then inevitably so is work. Whether you work in the most welcoming, relaxed, easy-going environment there is, the minute the heat is on and the deadline is looming, people get snappy, and snappy breeds snappy, until we’re all snapping at each other relentlessly before it’s time to hit the vino and slag everyone off for being so darn snappy.
No one likes dealing with tension in the office and no one thrives under it – particularly if you, like us, work in a creative environment. Tension so thick that you need to wield a dragon glass long sword to cut through it (if you know, you know) stifles productivity and efficiency and can encourage feelings of anxiety and stress amongst staff, even those who aren’t directly involved in it.
Now, while we can’t magically sweep away all of the tension that builds up when colleagues are up to their eyeballs in it, we can share some well-rehearsed top-tips that have worked to bust the tension when things get too heated in the office.
Play dumb – not what you were expecting for sound, sensible advice? Well, sometimes when people go off the boil and say something “off” or lose their temper, it’s usually because they’re working extra hard and they’re trying to do their best. So, maybe give them a break, let it pass, and don’t roll your eyes and try and communicate in meme-morse code to your office gossip-buddy on the other side of the room – because you’re never, ever as covert as you think you are, and if there’s one thing a person on the brink of snapping doesn’t need, it’s your sassy comment about it.
A lot of the time, when people let a tense moment pass unremarked upon, it will peter out and become a joke or excusable moment of silliness where both parties can continue with their work with a renewed sense of purpose and teamwork.
When people start jumping in with mud-slinging or authoritative advice, the situation can quickly descend into something unnecessarily larger than it actually was. If you know your colleagues and you trust them enough to recognise the signs of stress and a genuine out of character outburst – then let it blow over and move on.
Intervention tactics – Sometimes, things do not pass by calmly on their own, and some kind of intermediary behaviour is required to cool the situation down.
An evasive attitude is what is needed here. When things get ugly and people show no signs of slowing down in their meltdown of stress and despair, throwing cutting remarks their way isn’t going to protect anyone from the approaching storm, so rise above and diffuse the situation. Usually, this is by changing the subject by focusing on something positive – whether that be about the project, a skill set or even a flattering pair of socks they’re wearing, steer the conversation to an amiable, but useful, topic and you should be able to move the conversation away from the initial argument.
Do this well, and you can get the discussion back on track as well saving yourself, and your colleagues, from saying something that you all might later regret.
Face the music – When all else fails, it’s time to deal with the situation head on. This isn’t easy, so make sure it really is the last resort in salvaging the tense situation.
When a situation or conversation escalates quickly into the fiery realms of tension hell, then it’s probably time to step in and be the mediator. The only problem with this is that you do have to listen carefully to the argument and try to find some common or neutral ground on which to deftly step in with your fire-fighting voice of reason and spray metaphorical calm all over the irrational flames of anger. Hopefully, just the presence of another voice in the discussion will help to simmer the conversation down and open the door for a resolution.
Just be warned, be very careful to stay on mutual ground, your role is to ease the tension, not to add fuel to the fire.
If you’re passionate about your work, and you happen to work with any other human being, then escaping moments of tension is nigh on impossible, but by keeping these tips in mind you can help to make any office environment as tension free as possible – no knives needed.
Feeling tense about your next creative campaign or marketing collateral? Have no fear, get in touch today to see how we can help with all of your digital, design and communications needs, we promise we won’t bite…