Dealing With Personality Clashes at Work

Unless you work by yourself in the vacuum of outer space, there is a 100% chance you will face a conflict at work with a co-worker. This isn’t always a bad thing. There is no growth without some conflict. But when these conflicts affect your work and productivity that is a problem that must be dealt with. You don’t all have to agree or get along, but you do have to work together. And don’t believe for a moment that the only people affected by the personality clash are the participants. Everyone in the office is impacted.

That is why it’s so important for you to approach conflict with a new perspective.  Working successfully with everyone, even though it may be challenging in some circumstances, is critical to your future. Here’s some tips to make sure personality clashes at work don’t become personality wars…

the office


Don’t be part of the problem

You may have a role in the personality clash. Is it time to look in the mirror and evaluate your own responsibility?

  • ThinkstockPhotos-460844369Don’t overreact. You can control how you react or respond. When things get heated, distance yourself, take a breather and then respond in a professional way.
  • Don’t comply with their demands. And don’t bend over backwards to get them to stop their bad behavior. You’re only rewarding them.
  • Don’t hesitate to walk away if you’re being treated poorly. This will send a clear message that you won’t tolerate their behavior.

Avoid gossip and office politics

It’s difficult to not get involved in rumors, gossip and office politics. However, at work, this behavior is harmful. It wastes time, causes divisiveness, creates anxiety, lowers morale and damages reputations.

  • ThinkstockPhotos-87775148Consider the motivation behind the gossip. If you think the goal is to degrade another person, avoid the discussion.
  • Change the subject. Instead of discussing another person’s weaknesses, focus on a more productive topic.
  • Be less available for fruitless or harmful discussions. If you make it a habit to not engage in gossip and rumors, other people won’t come to you with them.
  • Join in, but use gossip in a positive way. Instead of undermining a co‑worker, support
    the person.

Know the difference between ‘difficult’ and ‘different’

ThinkstockPhotos-520097702The difference between “difficult” and “different” may sometimes seem narrow. When someone acts in a way that conflicts with our way of doing things, we tend to label that person “difficult.” However, difficult behavior is distinguished by its planned nature. People who throw temper tantrums to get their own way have actually made a choice, based on evidence, to behave in that way because it works for them. On the other hand, people who are much faster or slower in their daily pace than you—however “difficult” it may be for you to cope with that behavior—are exhibiting a “difference.”

Get to the root of the problem

There is always a reason behind a problem. Look for these possible motives:

  • ThinkstockPhotos-78050667Conflicting goals: This can manifest in various ways like duplicating work efforts, pushing work onto others and making decisions that affect others without consulting with them.
  • Geographical distance: When employees work in different rooms, cities or even countries, the absence of face-to-face contact can cause misunderstandings.
  • Perceived and real hierarchies: Organizations produce official and unofficial hierarchies based on tenure, roles, responsibilities and expertise. This can cause clashes.
  • Personal problems: When people feel pressures in their personal lives, they may take it out on their co-workers.
  • Competition: Unhealthy competition can result in employees sabotaging or insulting each other.
  • Different values: For example, young workers may possess different values than older workers. The failure to accept the differences can cause conflict.

Avoid negativity

If you work with a negative person who focuses on bad things and ignores the positive, don’t let it affect your performance. Manage it. Here are four of the best ways:ThinkstockPhotos-464245763

  • Don’t participate in the negativity. Switch the topic. Simply reply, “I see” or “Interesting.” When the person is responding positively, be enthusiastic—maybe he or she will notice the difference and be more positive in future communications.
  • Don’t take the critical comments personally. Recognize that he or she is just offering a point of view.
  • Avoid trigger topics. For example, your co-worker may instantly get negative when you talk about workload.
  • Spend as little time as possible with them. Spend time with co-workers who are positive and productive.

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