The Gray Area of Office Conflict: When to Go to HR and When Not To

HR departments acts as nerve centers for employee relations, connecting employees to the resources and help they need to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. They’re also responsible for handling the world of office conflict.

Of course, not all complaints are worthy of an HR visit, but telling the difference can be tricky, something we at Arden Coaching refer to as the gray area of office conflict.

In this post, we’ll help you navigate the unwritten rules of bringing an issue to HR: when to go and when you should try to handle it on your own.

Don’t Go: The Ground Rules

Office ConflictThe reason parsing out this gray area is so challenging is because every organization and person is unique. Areas such as your position at your company, your relationship with your boss and management team, and your company’s culture all come into play.

At a high level, it’s better to first try to handle spoken disputes or misunderstandings on your own if you can by talking it out with the other party and following your company’s policy for resolving conflict.

Say, for example, a colleague wasn’t being receptive to your ideas during a meeting and made a few comments that were out of character. Having a quick discussion with this person to parse out their reactions and help you better express your reasoning may be all it takes to move forward from it.

Do Go: Issues That Escalate or Cross a Legal Line

If your attempts to level with the person don’t get any traction and/or the situation escalates, it’s a good idea to seek help from HR.

If you haven’t discussed the issue with your boss until this point, give them a heads-up so they’re cognizant of the issue and don’t feel blindsided when HR takes action.

Immediate HR visits are required for the following:

  • Harassment and other clear violations
  • When issues persist: You’re being bullied by peers and have continually asked them to stop
  • When you want information on the record or need a neutral third party
  • When you have no one else to ask for help regarding the situation

Resolve Is Right Around the Corner

If a situation has you debating whether you should take it to HR and you haven’t tried to work it out on your own, in most cases, your first course of action is to talk to the person. But if you feel as though your comfort or safety is being jeopardized, you want to bring the issue to HR’s attention as soon as possible.

Differences in opinion are a fact of life, but when conflict persists or gets out of hand, your organization’s HR team is trained to help you resolve these challenges.

Increasing your team’s communication skills can help them work through disputes and increase their contributions. Interested in communication training for your leadership teams? Reach out to the pros at Arden Coaching today!



Arden Executive Coaching | The Gray Area of Office Conflict: When to Go to HR and When Not To