Dealing With Personality Conflicts at Work

Disagreements happen between coworkers for many different reasons. One of the most common reasons for conflict is miscommunication, and the underlying cause of miscommunication is sometimes a personality clash.

When a team is made up of diverse individuals from very different backgrounds, personality conflicts aren’t uncommon.  What do you need to know when dealing with personality conflicts at work whether you’re a manager trying to reestablish peace between team members or you’re in the middle of a personality conflict yourself?

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What Triggers Personality Conflicts?

It can be beneficial to an organization to have a diverse team that consists of people who have had a variety of different life experiences. Varied life experiences can stimulate lively discussions and innovative ideas, but sometimes team members simply don’t like each other for reasons that aren’t all that obvious.

Underneath a personality conflict may be many types of differences.  Different work styles may mean each worker has a different approach to deadlines with one individual getting work completed quickly while the other waits till the last minute. Background differences such as socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, political views and gender can cause people to see things from completely different perspectives, making it difficult to understand the perspective of the other person. Collaboration between people who have completely different approaches to life can be challenging.

How Personality Conflicts Affect The Workplace

When a personality conflict is going on, the people involved may believe that the problem is just between the two of them, but this is not usually the case. People that can’t get along, especially when there’s no clear reason that they aren’t getting along, bring down department morale, create tension in the workplace and affect productivity.

If only one individual is refusing to get along with a teammate, it can cause the other individual to become anxious about showing up at work. The one who’s feeling victimized may start to have more absenteeism than before the incidents started and may even start seeking employment elsewhere.

Working Through Workplace Conflict

It’s rare to have a team in which everyone gets along all the time. If you’re in the middle of a personality conflict with a coworker, try to see things from their perspective. Is there a way to work it out if you try to look at things a different way?

If conflict doesn’t work itself out in a timely manner, you may need to involve management, especially if you’ve made efforts to work through differences with the other person, but your efforts have been unsuccessful. Avoid complaining to other coworkers, since this can cause people to want to take sides, which can intensify the problem.

If you’re in a leadership role, encourage staff members to raise concerns before a conflict between coworkers gets out of control. If you are observing personality conflicts between staff members, it’s important to make sure there’s no bullying or harassment going on. Meet with the team members involved in the conflict and try to determine the underlying cause.

What appears to be a conflict based on personality may actually be triggered by problems such as work-related stress caused by limited resources or simple misunderstandings. When communication breaks down, an outside party acting as a mediator can help those in conflict clarify the problem and work toward finding a solution to restore a peaceful work environment.

Mediation may be provided by a manager, a member of HR or an outside organization that specializes in resolving conflicts.  Involving a third party gives those in conflict an opportunity to work through their differences without making things worse.

For conflict resolution services or conflict coaching, reach out to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems.

Valerie Dansereau

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