Personality Conflict in the Workplace
Have you ever had “one of those days” at work? I am sure that most of us have. We would all be happier, more productive and more motivated if our bosses, co-workers and employees would just think, act and work like we do.
Since that is not going to happen (not on this planet, anyway), what other options do we have?
Personality conflicts present some of the biggest challenges we have in the workplace. When we are tempted to take a “mental health” day, or even quit a job, it is often not the work itself that causes problems. After all, we have usually already mastered the job. But there are two things we have to do to be happy and successful at work; we need to get the job done and we need to manage relationships. Managing relationships—the “people” part—tends to be the harder part.
What are some things to keep in mind while negotiating the personality minefields?
- My way is one way to be; it is not the right way or the only way. It is natural to think that my personality, my working style, and my preferences are “normal.” But they are not. They are simply one way to be.
- People who are different from me in personality, cognitive style, or communication style will irritate me. But they are the ones I need on my team! The ones who think like I do have little to add. We may get along fine, but our view of problems, issues and their possible solutions is restricted. I may have a bit more conflict with those who see things differently, but together we see a “bigger picture.”
- It is not easy to simply accept those who are different from me. We are talking about changing the habits of a lifetime. I need to really work on being aware of these differences, moving away from focusing on the annoyances and meeting the person halfway.
- Different personality characteristics all have their strengths and weaknesses (yes, even mine!). Learning to appreciate differences will strengthen my team and my organization since getting things done well requires all types.
A quick example
Suppose you are a person who is a bit of an experimenter. You like to try new things and be adventuresome. You are on a team with someone who is a conformist; a conservative, conventional employee. Your co-worker is someone who finds it difficult to change; while you, on the other hand, have a reputation as someone who tends to bend, if not break policies and procedures whenever possible.
Chances are very good that the two of you are going to have some conflict as you work on a task or try to solve a problem. But who is correct? Who should lead the way? That depends! What is the nature of the task and the organization? In a heavily regulated environment (an accounting department or a nuclear power plant), we may want to see your co-worker prevail. In a marketing department developing a new ad campaign, perhaps you should take the reins. If the task or problem falls somewhere in-between, it is a great opportunity to blend your strengths and weaknesses….as long as you can keep from driving each other crazy in the process!
Dr. Addesso is the author of “The Boss From Outer Space and Other Aliens at Work.”