Taking the High Road - 4 Productive Ways to Deal With Argumentative Employees

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November 20, 2017

4 Productive Ways to Deal with Argumentative Employees

Nearly everyone who has spent time working in an office environment has encountered an especially argumentative employee or coworker. This may be a man or woman who feels they are never at fault for anything, that their opinion is always correct, and whose method of dealing with any type of confrontation or disagreement is to immediately become argumentative. Not only is this behavior distracting and unprofessional, but it can also negatively impact workplace productivity. For many, the natural inclination when faced with such behavior is to argue back; especially when they feel certain that they are in the right. Unfortunately this rarely - if ever - alleviates the problem; and in most cases it does more harm than good. By becoming combative, one not only lowers oneself to his or her colleague's level, validating the troublesome behavior; but failing to remain calm also increases discord in the workplace, and may negatively affect how one is viewed by his or her peers. Below we'll lay out four tips for how to resolve workplace disputes with argumentative peers in a congenial and professional manner.  

1. Consult your employee handbook, and always follow proper procedure. According to the Six Sigma1 set of workplace tools and techniques, one of the best ways to avoid becoming embroiled in an office dispute is to simply follow the procedures laid out in your workplace's employee handbook. In most workplaces the employee handbook outlines specific protocols and procedures for handling disagreements between coworkers. If the argumentative employee in question is causing sufficient disruption or negatively affecting productivity, it is highly likely that your workplace has an explicit course of action in place to deal with just such a situation. Again, according to Six Sigma, these protocols likely involve reporting the employee in question's behavior to a superior, or to the Human Resources department. By reporting the disruptive employee and getting your concerns on record, you both alert your superiors to a potential issue while also extricating yourself from the situation.

2. Remain calm, and utilize proper communication tools. The former, especially in the face of a colleague who seems to want to engage in an argument can be difficult, but it vitally important that you keep your cool. When you react aggressively you are giving your antagonist exactly what they want, as well as escalating the situation, when your goal should be the opposite. According to the Career Trend2 website, maintaining your composure and focusing on productive communication both go a long way towards de-escalating a potentially volatile situation. Rather than raising your voice and/or arguing back, retain a professional manner while acknowledging the issue your coworker is raising. Tune out argumentative words, and focus only on those that pertain to the issue at hand; keep your behavior and responses professional; think carefully before you speak; and state your case clearly, calmly, and rationally. Avoid and personal attacks, and if the argument begins to get loud and disruptive, suggest moving it into an office or other private space. There are, of course, situations in which none of these strategies will be effective. If you find that the situation is continuing to escalate despite your best efforts, or if your coworker if resorting to personal attacks, it can often be best to simply remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes walking away is the only reasonable solution.

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3. Give up the need to be right. As difficult as it may be, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where even though we know we are correct, a colleague or coworker simply will not concede the point. Remember, there are no "winners" in arguments, and they generally leave both parties feeling worse off than before. According to the Resourceful Manager3, it is sometimes more productive to shift from trying to prove your point, to trying to understand theirs. Even if we may still disagree, giving up the need to be right all the time allows us to better understand where a colleague's viewpoint may be coming from. There is a common saying, "that one can either be right, or be happy." In certain situations in the workplace, the latter is much more conducive to a harmonious and productive office environment.

4. Explain to the employee in question why you believe he or she has been argumentative. According to smallbusiness.chron.com4 it is possible that the troublesome employee may be unaware that their behavior is causing disruption in the workplace. By pointing out specific examples of such behavior and discussing them, a previously troublesome employee may be able to amend their behavior in the future. Simply by being aware of the disruptive behavior can sometimes be enough to mitigate it altogether. Also, in discussing the issue with the employee you may find there is an underlying cause that is leading them to act out in the workplace. By identifying this cause, you can direct the employee to resources that may assist them in dealing with this outside issue, and mitigate their in-office misbehavior. 

Hopefully these tips can be of use to you, should you find yourself dealing with an argumentative employee or coworker; but if not, there are numerous other resources out there at your disposal. For more on these resources, and much more information on how to handle many of the other problems that may arise in the workplace, please contact us at Lorman Education Services Today!   

1. https://www.sixsigmaonline.org/six-sigma-training-certification-information/dealing-with-arguments-and-confrontation-in-the-workplace/
3. https://www.resourcefulmanager.com/argument-ping-pong/
4. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/deal-argumentative-employee-16656.html

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