Arguments are common at any place, be it a masjid, shop, canteen, college, street corner or the house. One such spot is your workplace – either the office where you are employed or a place where you do your business. This article analyzes the common triggers of workplace arguments and what we can do as individual team members to minimize them and maintain productive relationships at work.
There can be ‘n’ number of reasons that can lead to an argument. However, workplace arguments are mostly a result of fear; a fear of loss (monetary or non-monetary) or a fear of more work. In either case, productivity is affected. An argument flares up tempers, even if temporarily, and the person loses concentration in work. In such a situation he/she is more likely to commit mistakes than in a normal condition.
Keeping cool is the key. That is where patience comes into picture. If the cause is a monetary loss, one can remind himself/herself that a monetary loss is temporary as is monetary profit. If the cause is non-monetary such as losing credibility or honor or being ridiculed, one can quickly remind self that: “Allah gives honors to whom He wills and humiliates whom He wills” [Qur’an: Chapter 3, Verse 26].
Here are some important tips to keep in mind if you want to avoid conflicts at work and maintain positive relations with your colleagues:
1. Identify and Eliminate Triggers
There are some common reasons that inevitably result in arguments and counter-arguments between colleagues. It is important to identify and eliminate these triggers. More often than not, arguments arise between co-workers due to tasks not being completed.
In today’s fast-paced corporate world, activities are time-bound and demanding; however, most employees fail to meet deadlines. Being proactive and fighting procrastination are key if you are to perform your tasks with excellence as well as avoid arguments and blame games that commonly arise when a crucial deadline is near.
Reprimanding the responsible person will certainly occur. Again, this is due to the fear of losing out to competitors — within an organization or outside. Reprimanding in front of co-workers leads to either counter arguments or demoralization. As management studies teach — “praise in public, fire in private”. Identify ways to penalize a non-performing individual privately based on monetary or other reductions from benefits, which he/she will remember and try to perform better in future.
2. Strive to be the Bigger Person
The Holy Prophet said: “Whoever avoids lying while he is doing so falsely, a house will be built for him on the skirts of Paradise. Whoever avoids arguing while he is in the right, a house will be built for him in its midst. And whoever has good character, a house will be built for him in its heights.” [Tirmidhi]
The beauty here is that a home in Jannah is being guaranteed for both, the right and the wrong person just because they abandon arguing, Subhan Allah! This hadith shows how crucial it is to prioritize maintaining good relationships over proving your point, and that the better person is always the one who can subdue and control his ego.
3. Delegate Diligently
Tasks and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and communicated to all those concerned and everyone should be taken on board at the same time. Remind everyone of the importance of accountability and responsibility. Otherwise, there is fair chance of people passing the buck to one another, leading to arguments.
4. Be Cordial
Asking questions straight away or assigning tasks the moment an employee enters is a mood dampener. Greet with a smile; let him/her settle first, then you can kick off your routine activities in a few minutes.
Imam Hassan narrated: “My younger brother Husayn said: I asked my father (Ali ) about the conduct of Rasulullah in his assemblies. He replied: ‘Rasulullah was always happy and easy mannered. There was always a smile and a sign of happiness on his blessed face. He was soft-natured and when the people needed his approval, he easily gave consent. He did not speak in a harsh tone nor was he stone-hearted. He did not scream while speaking, nor was he rude or spoke indecently. He did not seek other’s faults. He never over-praised anything nor exceeded in joking, nor was he a miser. He kept away from undesirable language and did not make as if he did not hear anything. If he did not agree with the next person’s wish he did not make that person feel disheartened, nor did he promise anything to that person. He completely kept himself away from three things: from arguments, pride and senseless utterances.'” [Shama’il Muhammadiyyah]
The Holy Prophet also prayed to Allah to grant abundance to the Ummah in the work done by them in the early morning: “O Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings (i.e., what they do early in the morning).” [Sunan Ibn Majah]
Making a point to be pleasant and cordial to our colleagues every morning and avoiding arguments should grant us more abundance In sha Allah.
5. Please Do Not Pry
People do not generally like to be inquired on many a things such as one’s salary, progress of projects or personal matters etc. It is always better to focus on one’s self rather than inquiring about others. As a Muslim, one can remind him/herself that gossiping is not permissible. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 49, Verse 12]
Always remember that if someone gossips about someone else with you, they will very likely gossip about you with someone else.
6. Maintain Husn ad-Dhan
If someone says or asks something, always take it as straight and simple as possible — this is called maintaining husn ad-dhan (assuming good about others). If someone is concealing something or has some ulterior motives, that is his/her problem, not yours. Always trying to read between the lines leads to suspicion and too much suspicion or negative assumption in some cases is a sin, as has been mentioned in the verse quoted previously.
Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah’s worshipers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you!’) [Bukhari]
7. Restrain and Fight Anger
What is worse is that anger blows arguments out of proportion, resulting in personal enmity many a times. A practical advice from the Holy Prophet to restrain and control anger is: “If one of you gets angry and he is standing, then he should sit down until his anger subsides. If it does not, then he should lie down.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
Lying down may not be practical at the workplace. There is another piece of advice from the Holy Prophet on how to restrain and control your anger:
“Anger is from Satan, and Satan was created from fire. Fire is but extinguished by water, so if one of you gets angry, he should perform wudu.” [Sunan Abi Dawud]
8. Stop and Consider If You Are Being Silly
When we are working in a mixed cultural environment, arguments tend to be of political or religious in nature. This may lead to an environment that is non-conducive to productivity, as all arguments no matter how silly will create ill-will that tends to stay at the back of people’s minds, affecting their efficiency and efficacy as a team.
Within all-Muslim environments, the subjects of arguments are too petty, rather funny and often lead us to nowhere. These issues are most commonly related to one another’s ideologies or petty things such as where to fold one’s hands while praying or how loud should one’s ‘Aameen’ in prayers be. Such arguments create a trend of categorizing co-workers as “us” and “them”, instead of allowing them to view one another as “we”.
9. Remember the Effect of Disagreements on Your Life
Arguments decrease divine blessings as is evident from the hadith that shows why the exact date of Lailatul-Qadr was withheld.
Narrated ‘Ubada bin As-Samit: “The Prophet came out to inform us about the Night of Qadr but two Muslims were quarreling with each other. So, the Prophet said, “I came out to inform you about the Night of Qadr but such-and-such persons were quarreling, so the news about it had been taken away; yet that might be for your own good, so search for it on the 29th, 27th and 25th (of Ramadan).” [Bukhari]
Arguments that occur at work tend to ruin our mood and morale for the entire day, causing stress that negatively affects our health as well as our other relationships. The affects of workplace arguments often spill over at home, leading to further conflicts and ill-will. Hence, we will be deprived of peace and the ability to enjoy the blessings of family, a home to go to, a good night’s sleep and even the food we eat.
Looking at the bigger picture is crucial in minimizing workplace arguments. Your relationship with your colleagues and family, your health and most important, being obedient to Allah by avoiding sins such as backbiting and suspicion that lead to arguments are much more important than being right all the time. Be the bigger person, breathe, let go and watch Allah elevate your status because you did what was pleasing to Him !
Have you ever experienced conflicts at your workplace? How did you resolve them? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
About the Author:
Ajaz Ahmed is a Middle East-based IT systems analyst originally from Aurangabad, India. He writes on various issues pertaining to the Muslim world. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org