Finding Ways of Resolving Personality Conflicts at Work

Conflicts at work can happen for many different reasons. Frequently people clash because there’s a misunderstanding, or they have different goals or a different vision of what they’re trying to accomplish. Sometimes it seems like people have difficulty getting along because of a personality conflict. They just don’t like each other for no apparent reason. You’ll need to find ways of resolving personality conflicts at work. What does it take to restore the peace?

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Why Do People Have Personality Conflicts?

People may have difficulty connecting for any number of reasons. There may be wide age differences, or they may come from very different backgrounds. One may want to work at a fast pace while another is slower and more meticulous. One may constantly chat while the other wants to work in silence. Unconscious bias can trigger friction and distaste for another person. People sometimes have reactions based on a stereotype.

Conflicts may not be resolved if people continually focus on personality differences and not on identifying the cause of the conflict. When people repeatedly feel negative or uncomfortable around each other, it can create a tense environment and affect others that work nearby, which means it can’t be allowed to go on without being addressed.

Identify the Root of the Problem

People can be reactive to those around them on an emotional level and don’t always think through what’s setting them off. When they don’t immediately know why they’re clashing with a coworker, they may jump to the conclusion that the problem is rooted in personality differences rather than trying to pinpoint what’s really bothering them. It may be that roles aren’t clearly defined and if you’re in a leadership role, you may need to clarify who is responsible for what. They may have different interpretations about the nature of a project and the steps needed to complete it.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Just as conflicting team members may jump to the conclusion that their problem is from personality differences rather than thinking through the situation that triggered conflict, managers may do the same thing. Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that the heart of the problem is rooted in personality differences without investigating possible underlying causes that may be triggering conflict.

Take the people who are in conflict aside and ask them to each tell you their side of what’s been happening. Encourage each to express what’s bothering them and what changes might help them to overcome their differences. Allow them to speak without interruption and while they’re speaking, remain calm and interested. Taking notes and asking questions lets them know you’re listening to their concerns.

All parties should participate in brainstorming ways for them to work together without conflict. Try to find solutions that make each of them feel like they’ve won part of what they wanted. Schedule a follow-up meeting to make sure progress is being made.

Worsening Conflict

While some team members will be cooperative about trying to work through conflicts, others may resist efforts to find a solution to their differences. Sometimes even when efforts are made to have a more peaceful work environment, the same disputes or conflicts keep recurring.

When this happens, it’s a good idea to talk to your HR department about getting involved to discuss disciplinary action. Another option is to involve an outside mediator. In some conflicts, only a third party who is completely detached can convince the parties involved in the conflict that no one is taking sides. Professional mediators are specially trained in the resolution of conflicts and can help you and your team get back to a peaceful work environment.

Get in touch with Pollack Peacebuilding Systems to learn more about peacebuilding in the workplace.



Valerie Dansereau

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