Every office I've ever worked in or worked for has some degree of tension. Tension isn't necessarily bad. In fact, a lot of business and organizations skillfully use tension to spark new ideas and innovation.
However, there is lots of unproductive, interpersonal tension out there. This kind of tension happens when there are misunderstandings and unresolved issues between employees. It typically starts small and builds over time. Each person involved is keeping score. They count up slights, criticisms, and decisions that didn't go their way.
And whether you're involved or not, you feel it. It comes out in snarky, sarcastic comments during meetings or in the "meeting after the meeting" when subsets gather for a debrief on what they really think.
Avoiding tension and not dealing with the problems head on erode productivity and trust. The ramifications are worse if you're in a leadership position. Issue avoidance is a signal of weakness that will undermine your ability to motivate and get big goals accomplished.
With that in mind, I wrote this recent article for my Inc.com column on how to deal with tension in the office before it gets out of control.