It would be great if everyone got along. Unfortunately, that’s never going to happen. You will need to work with people whom you wouldn’t spend time with socially. We explain how to deal with a personality clash at work.
This guide will look at six different strategies you can adopt to deal with a personality clash at work. Before we get into that, though, let’s quickly discuss personality clashes in the workplace.
Why personality clashes at work occur?
Conflict is inevitable when individuals work together; it’s a fact of life in any workplace. According to a CIPD report, 44% of employees think personality differences and individual competence or performance are the two biggest causes of conflict in the workplace.
Conflicts caused by a personality clash occur at businesses of all sizes. However, according to the same CIPD report, small businesses tend to handle these issues better than larger organisations.
Let’s look at some of the key behaviours that cause conflicts in the workplace.
We all work in different ways. Ask five people to take on a project, and you’ll see people take different approaches.
Some of us are morning people. Others are most productive in the afternoon. Some people work fast, finishing projects as soon as they are given to them, while others like the adrenaline rush of waiting until the deadline approaches. Some people choose to start with what interests them, while others want to go through their checklist in order.
Leaders have their own leadership styles as well. Some keep their employees on a short leash and are finding it hard to adjust to a remote working environment, while others prefer a more laissez-faire approach to management. Knowing how to maintain your presence while working away from the office will go a long way in letting your employees know that you’ve still got their back.
These differences in the way people approach work are usually a strength for an organisation. However, work style differences can also be a source of conflict in the workplace.
Different attitudes & personalities
Some people are extroverts, and others are introverts. Some people are pessimists, and others are optimists. Again, like approaches to work, a mix of personality types can be a strength for a company. Just imagine how noisy your office would be if everyone was an extrovert and wanted to talk all the time.
Differences in attitudes to work, and personality, can create conflict. As a company, you need to make sure your team is made up of the right balance of people.
Different ethnic or social backgrounds
Age, educational backgrounds, personal experiences, ethnic origin, gender, and political inclinations can all contribute to conflict. Our own experiences and ideas have a significant role in shaping our perceptions. These differences greatly influence the way individuals connect in the workspace.
If you’re competitive, you probably want to advance in the workplace. Unfortunately, there are only ever a limited number of senior positions in a company. That means you’ll be inevitably competing with other work colleagues for opportunities to advance your career.
While a competitive business environment is healthy, it can be a source of conflict. Making matters worse, a clash between two people over career advancement opportunities can often draw in work colleagues.
Communication issues are a regular source of conflict in the workplace. Forgetting to notify a colleague about an important meeting can leave the person feeling angry and resentful. Do that a couple of times, and you might have an enemy for life.
Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration
Communication issues are, though, a significant issue for most businesses. Miscommunication or a breakdown of communication can impact business operations. If that happens, and you’re facing tight deadlines, things can get stressful, which is when conflicts occur.
One of the simplest ways to avoid communication issues is to avoid using buzzwords, especially if you’re with people who have varying levels of exposure to your industry.
For example, not a lot of creatives are familiar with terms that MBA degree holders use casually and vice-versa. You may instead play it safe and use the simplest possible words whenever you discuss a project or requirement.
6 ways to deal with a personality clash at work
Workplace conflicts are inevitable. You can, however, reduce the risk and scope of conflicts resulting from personality clashes at work with the right strategies. Follow these tips to deal with a personality clash in your workplace.
Address the cause of the problem
When you’re dealing with a personality clash at work, it’s critical to figure out and address the underlying cause of the problem. Is it only a difference of opinion, or is there a more serious issue at hand?
It’s a good idea to talk to the other individual about the situation. Reconciliation requires honesty from both parties. Both sides must be aware of and comprehend the root cause of the problem.
Is there a lot of pressure on the team right now? Has anything changed in terms of operating policies? Is there an issue with a particular project? Are any of the conflicting parties dealing with personal grief? Asking the folks involved what’s going on is the only way to know for sure.
If the problem isn’t merely a personality conflict but something more serious, you may expect it to reoccur and worsen until you take action. Try to find a solution to the root of the problem.
To put it another way, tackle the cause of the problem rather than the symptom. Then, once you’ve identified the issue, take corrective action. That might be simple, or it could involve ensuring the two people with a problem don’t work closely together.
Consider your role in the conflict
Examine your actions to determine if there was anything you might have done better. There’s a good likelihood you played a role in the conflict. Make it your mission to find a solution. Remind yourself of the other person’s contributions to your firm or team.
We tend to focus on the negatives when things are going wrong. At the very least, considering the other person’s strengths allows you to return to a neutral state and examine things more rationally.
Don’t respond in the heat of the moment
If you’re in an argument, try not to overreact in the heat of the moment. Things are more likely to get out of hand, and tempers are likely to flare. Walk away from the confrontation and give everyone involved a chance to settle down.
It’s easier said than done, of course, but responding to impulses hardly contributes to building a positive work culture. Instead, it makes your workplace relationships a lot more toxic.
Deal with the issue once things have settled down. You can invite the other person to talk with you about the problem and find a solution. The goal is to establish a safe environment in which you can calmly address and resolve the issue. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about their viewpoint.
Ask for help mediating the conflict
Mediation is an organised conversation between two disputing parties facilitated by an impartial mediator. You can ask for formal or informal mediation. There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches.
Formal mediation is best utilised for conflicts that are difficult to resolve. Asking for a manager or someone from HR to intervene in the conflict can help reduce the risk of confrontation. However, drawing in senior management and HR will raise the profile of the conflict.
You need to decide if it’s the appropriate response for your situation. Raising the profile of a conflict can lead to resentment, especially if it’s perceived that formal mediation will impact salary or opportunities for career advancement.
On the other hand, informal mediation can help resolve issues without raising the problem with senior management or human resources. Regardless of which option you choose, having a neutral third party to moderate the discussion can help keep the conversation calm and constructive.
Document all interactions
If you are having an ongoing issue with a colleague, and you feel you are being harassed, document the conflict. Documenting interactions is important if you plan to raise the issue with senior management. Documenting interactions serves two purposes.
Firstly, the notes are something you can review. When reviewing previous interactions, you can ask yourself, is there anything I could have done differently to reduce the conflict?
Through reviewing your notes, you might discover there are things you could have done differently. That’s a positive thing because you can act on those insights.
As importantly, documenting your interactions provides a third party something to review when you raise your complaint. You can show that despite doing everything possible to reduce the likelihood of conflict, there is still a problem.
Talk to senior management
If you cannot talk with the other person in the conflict, you may need to address the issue by talking with senior management or HR. Before discussing the issue with senior management or HR, carefully consider your goals.
You should be clear on what you hope to achieve by raising the issue. For example, you might want to be assigned to a different department or work on fewer projects with the individual. You need to be realistic about the potential outcome.
As mentioned earlier, you risk angering the other party by turning to a senior staff member to resolve a conflict. In some instances, that risk is worth the potential reward.
One of the most challenging tasks is dealing with a personality clash at work. Unfortunately, it’s a common issue, and it’s something you’ll need to learn how to deal with. This guide covered a few strategies you can try to reduce the risk of a personality clash turning into a conflict.
Acceptance, understanding, proper action, and professionalism are frequently effective in resolving conflicts. Conflict resolution leads to a happier and more productive workplace. The important thing is to avoid allowing personality clashes and toxic workplace relationships to derail your career.
About the Author
David Pagotto is the Founder and Managing Director of SIXGUN, a digital marketing agency based in Melbourne. He has been involved in digital marketing for over 10 years, helping organisations get more customers, more reach, and more impact.