To put it plainly: Personal drama and conflict don’t belong in the workplace. Whether it’s a disagreement over differing political views or an incident that happened outside of work hours, it’s important to separate the personal from the professional. It’s also critical that personal conflict doesn’t impact work. 

When colleagues refuse to work together, it isn’t pretty. You don’t want to be in a work situation where conflict derails progress, bullies deride opposing viewpoints, or teams are divided. While it is important to address conflict, personal disagreements should remain outside the purview of work hours. 

Lean in With Curiosity

Tension with a colleague creates awkwardness. You may notice a change in your coworker’s behavior. Whereas before they were warm and friendly, you’ve noticed their behavior and messages are now cold, short, and distant. 

If you notice a change in your colleague’s behavior toward you, specifically after an out-of-office conflict, don’t shy away from confrontation. Lean into the awkwardness. Check on your coworker or teammate. You might say something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you haven’t seemed like yourself since we met for the happy hour. Is everything okay?”

Communicate Transparently and Openly

If the tension between you and your colleague continues for an extended time, don’t run from the conflict. Conflict in the workplace can be draining and affect your ability to do your job. Reach out to your colleague and address the conflict head on. 

Ask them to coffee or an after-work-hours meet-up to discuss the issue. Create space for them to share their side of the conflict, and be open about what has upset you. Commit to not allowing the conflict to continue to affect the workplace.

Choose to Be a Team Player

If you and your coworker have an out-of-office dispute, one way to manage it during work hours is to be a team player. Keep showing up and doing your part, and make the effort to support your teammate. Perhaps, you send them notes from a meeting they missed or you take initiative to take something off their to-do list. 

One way to diffuse tension is to collaborate and create clear boundaries and expectations of how you and your team member can work together. You can address it head on and say something like, “I know we butted heads the other day, but I want to know how we can best work together and collaborate on this project.”

Connect With Your Direct Manager

Another way to handle out-of-office conflict is to connect with your manager. You don’t have to share all the details of the dispute (especially if it is personal), but you can let them know that you sense tension between you and your colleague. 

Ask your manager for support in creating boundaries and better communication between you and your colleague. Having this honest conversation will create a space where your leader is able to get involved, work as a mediator, and ensure that the team works together to reach central goals. 

Escalate to HR

If a conflict has worsened and concerning behavior continues, it’s time to ask for a third party to step in. Speak with HR if you feel like an out-of-office conflict has led to a colleague continually disrespecting, deriding, or bullying you. Directing the conflict to HR might feel over-the-top, but that is literally what the department exists for.