2021 is finally here, but that doesn’t magically reset the events of 2020. We’re continuing to experience an unprecedented combination of changes and emotional fallout from COVID-19, the recent election cycle, and the ongoing social environment. Fuses are running short. Have you noticed you’re quicker to anger or to get annoyed by your coworkers? You are not alone.

Viewpoints from Ayana Collins & Claire Letourneau

Recognizing how internal and external factors play a role in workplace conflict is key to supporting employees, especially right now.

We spend a significant amount of time resolving disputes over how to accomplish a task and personal taste – but it’s fundamental to understand how health and wellbeing plays a role. Concern about finances or a health condition can lead to increased stress levels and put employees on edge. Poorly managed conflict can have negative consequences on wellbeing, leading to decreased productivity or burnout. Conflicts do not disappear in time; consequently, companies must provide employees with tools and the knowledge to handle and bounce back from conflict.

Frequent EPIC Viewpoints contributor and counseling expert, Claire Letourneau, offers her thoughts on how to use your current wellness offerings to aid in open communications, collaboration, and camaraderie.

The struggle to control anger – at the workplace, at home, in your car, in line with someone not wearing a mask – can be overwhelming in the best of times.

Right now, most of humanity is faced with challenges, both new and systemic, and it has truly put a strain on interpersonal experiences. When discussing anger and conflict, it’s crucial to acknowledge that even though one experiences a rush of anger, they may actually be feeling other things – he may be sad that his vacation was canceled, she may be anxious as she awaits January 20, they may be scared that their jobs are threatened. Anger is often the most accessible emotion, but it can veil what’s really going on. As Ayana said above, “have you noticed you’re quicker … to get annoyed by your coworkers?” Whether or not your employees are answering “yes,” it is likely time to start taking advantage of resources available to you.

Start with your medical carrier.

Many offer communication series on behavioral health, which can raise awareness, help employees feel supported and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health services. Medical carriers have incorporated additional programming and resources related to resilience, mindfulness, therapy, and more. For example, one of the larger carriers started offering Talkspace as part of their standard benefits – instead of clients having to pay for this type of virtual therapy vendor on their own, now they can simply promote what the medical carrier already provides.

If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place, see what resources they have but don’t just focus on employees – management needs training as well.

For example, are managers trained to recognize emotionally at-risk employees, are they able to diffuse conflict, are they able to create an environment that is supportive of all on their teams? EAPs often have training, webinars, and educational materials available for managers and employees that can increase positive behavior change.

Unfortunately, “2020” didn’t go away on January 1. Reach out to all of your benefits carriers, regardless of how likely they are to have resources – you may be surprised by what they can provide. If you’re looking for behavioral health and coaching options beyond what’s included in your benefits, we on the EPIC Wellness team are always ready to help.

Workplace friction stays with us long after work hours are over and negatively affects our mental and physical health.

When managed respectfully, conflict can help us better understand ourselves and others and lead to an environment poised for growth and success.


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EPIC offers these opinions for general information only. EPIC does not intend this material to be, nor may any person receiving this information construe or rely on this material as, tax or legal advice. The matters addressed in this article and any related discussions or correspondence should be reviewed and discussed with legal counsel prior to acting or relying on these materials.


Our Leaders

Claire Letourneau Headshot
Claire Letourneau

Senior Account Executive, Wellness – New York, NY