We all want to be good team players at the office. Life is just easier when everyone gets along. But no one is perfect, and work can sometimes be difficult and demanding. As a result, arguments can occur. Sometimes an argument with a colleague can be so extreme and upsetting that it can actually damage the work relationship.

So what should you do if this happens? Your first impulse might be to try to avoid the person who upset you. And you could glare at the person when you do cross paths. But this actually isn’t the best approach. Interpersonal conflict is stressful – not just for you and the other person involved in the argument, but also for everyone in your immediate vicinity. And research shows that when coworkers are angry with each other, it reduces their happiness and productivity. It’s not good to let things fester.

Instead, you need to try to resolve the problem and fix the relationship. You can do this by following these four steps:

  1. Recognize the fact that resolving things would benefit YOU – Trying to repair a damaged work relationship takes effort. But you need to realize that it’s worth it. Staying angry at a coworker is upsetting and distracting. You’ll get much more work done (and do a better job) if you can ease the tension.
  2. Think about how you might have contributed to the problem – I’m sure that you’re practically perfect and always right! But still, it’s possible that you might have contributed to the conflict. Think about the disagreement and try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. Is there something that you could have done or said differently that would have prevented the problem? Going forward, is there something that you can change that would help to alleviate the situation?
  3. Talk about it – It’s great that you’ve decided that you want to repair your bad work relationship. But in order to fix things, you and your coworker need to work together. Try to talk to your coworker about it. For instance, you could say, “I know that we’ve had some disagreements in the past because we have such different ways of getting work done. But I’d really like it if we could change things on this next project. I was wondering if we could come up with some ways to work together better. Would that be OK?”
  4. Avoid old patterns – Even if you talk things out with your coworker and reach an understanding, you still need to make a conscious effort to avoid old, detrimental behaviors. For example, if you always roll your eyes when your coworker arrives late to a meeting, you might continue to do it without even realizing it. When working and interacting with your coworker, try to think before you act.

Fixing a bad work relationship isn’t easy. But remember, it is worth the effort. Good luck!


Clark, D. (2014, June 5). How to repair a damaged professional relationship. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2014/06/how-to-repair-a-damaged-professional-relationship