How to Stay Focused When Conflict and Negativity Seep Into the Workplace

Meeting the daily demands of your career is challenging enough, let alone adding on conflict and negativity which creates a whole other hurdle to cross. This could be a conflict in a professional relationship or a personal one; both are equally distracting and painful to navigate. If you’re like me, I don’t like conflict. I want to keep the peace and will pay high costs to do so. In the professional setting, these high costs look like being overly accommodating, walking on eggshells, allowing people to breach boundaries or unfairly encroach on my time. And if the conflict is personal, even though it’s separate from my professional work, it still weighs on my heart and my mind during work hours. I find myself less inspired, agitated, and easily rattled.

Though I will not attempt to offer relational advice – that’s a whole other topic and best addressed by the parties involved (and maybe a professional counselor) – I can offer you wisdom and encouragement on how to separate the conflict in your life from your professional responsibilities. In doing so, you can maintain a peaceful and productive space at work while you sort through relational conflict outside of this time. It’s not easy – but it’s essential because conflict is and always will be a part of life. Keep reading for advice on staying focused even when professional (or personal) relationships feel like the biggest elephant in the room.

Create a routine that intentionally adjusts your mindset.

A powerful way to compartmentalize conflict is to be intentional about tunning your mindset to the current situation. When you’re not directly addressing conflict, the time spent mulling over it is wasted time, especially if steals from the time you should be using to tackling professional tasks. Negative relationships already steal so much, don’t let it also seep into your work environment where it makes you unproductive and miserable during a time when there’s really nothing you can do to solve the issue.

To get into the right mindset, create a quick, simple routine that adjusts your mindset. For me, my routine starts before I enter my office space. Walking through that doorway helps to physically and mentally set the tone that I’m in a new space, one where conflict is not invited. Next, I read an encouraging quote or passage of scripture. And finally, I make a short, mental list of things for which I am grateful. With a deep breath and good posture, I open my computer for the day and enter my work mindset. For the new however many hours, whatever relational conflict exists is not allowed in my headspace. There will be a more appropriate time to deal with it later.

Establish boundaries for both thoughts and actions during work hours.

Even with the best intentions to keep thoughts of your strained relationship from entering your work mind space, it’s likely to still want to creep in. Like anything in life, you need to establish boundaries. What’s most important is how quickly and effectively you can chase these thoughts away. Be prepared to repeat your routine above as often as necessary to refocus. Finally, be clear about your boundaries. Maybe you don’t need to go as far as drawing a physical line around your desk or putting a large scheduling block on your calendar marked “conflict-free time,” but maybe you need to do something nearly as drastic to make it stick. Moreover, stay strong and avoid the temptation to engage in conversations about this conflict. This will quickly steal hours from your day. If you’re ready to have a conversation to resolve the conflict, try to schedule this outside of work hours or right as you end your day. This gives you the evening to process and repair without it completing derailing your work day. 

Find joy and peace in a work environment that does not cater to conflict.

When you don’t allow the conflicts or negativity of the outside world to enter your workspace, it can become a sanctuary of sorts where you can find peace. It takes effort to create and preserve this peace, but with intention it is possible. Once you’re committed to keeping your work separate from other relational drama that may be going on in your life, you will want to fiercely protect this sanctuary you’ve created because it affords you a mental rest. Sure, work is still work and can be mentally taxing in other ways, but I promise it will be a breath of fresh air when you enter your office and sit in front of your computer without the weight of outside burdens allowed in. Leave it at the door!

Have a plan for resolving conflict quickly and correctly.

Conflict and negativity in our lives are to be expected, but these are wounds that should not be left untreated. While it’s important to compartmentalize relational issues so they don’t create chaos in your workspace, it’s equally important to be proactive in addressing the core of the issue. Every relationship and situation will be different. You will need to discern what’s best for what’s going on in your life right now. Does it simply need time and space to heal, or does it require a direct conversation? If you need to engage with someone, do it in-person or by phone, but avoid text and email at all costs. Seeing and hearing people as they communicate, especially in conflict, helps reduce misunderstanding and holds us accountable for our words. The sooner you can resolve the core issue causing the conflict, the sooner everyone can move on to healing their wounds and then the stress and anxiety of an actively “bleeding” relationship will no longer be a burden you must carry throughout your day.

Good luck!

Can you relate? Which piece of advice did you find most helpful, or is there another one that should be added to the list? Join the conversation by commenting below!

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