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How To Handle Personality Conflicts At Work

How To Handle Personality Conflicts At Work

At some point in our professional lives, most of us will have to deal with people we just don’t like or can’t seem to get along with. A clash of personalities is most likely at the root of these conflicts. Despite our best efforts, we sometimes just can’t seem to make it work. The unfortunate result is that the quality and enjoyment of our work suffers, and our stress levels skyrocket. In most cases when personality conflicts happen in the workplace, the entire team is disrupted as well.

Different types of Personality conflicts

Work style differences – people work in different ways. That’s just a reality in the workplace. Some people work quickly, completing their tasks as soon as they are assigned, while others like the rush of waiting till the deadline is looming. Some like to work on what appeals to them first, while others prefer to work methodically down their checklist from step to step.

Background differences – gender, ethnicity, social economic status, political views, and religious backgrounds can cause people to view situations with different perspectives. Our perception is in large part determined by our personal experiences and beliefs. These differences in perspective have a major impact on how we interact with others.

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Attitude differences – cynicism, arrogance, and irritability all contribute to an attitude of negativity. A negative attitude interferes with effective communication. Nobody wants to be around a terribly negative person. If you are a naturally upbeat, optimistic type of person, you may have difficulty dealing with someone who has a negative attitude. Some people constantly complain, looking for flaws, while others look for the positive and focus on finding solutions. This makes collaboration extremely difficult.

Competitive versus cooperative differences – some people feel the need to compete and compare constantly, while others seek to cooperate and work together, rather than against each other. It’s very difficult to work with people who are condescending, petty, posturing, and aggressive. The constant attitude of undermining and one-upmanship can be very draining. When the competitive attitude is taken to extreme, it can result in intentional sabotage, which puts the other person in a perpetually defensive state.

Consequences of personality conflicts

Personality conflicts exist, that’s a fact. It’s important however, to realize that there can be serious consequences when personalities clash.

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Stress – having to deal with personality clashes causes a great deal of tension and anxiety. Being in a constant state of alert, preparing for the next unpleasant interaction, can cause both physical and mental strain. In certain situations, this stress can have real physical impact on health. Sometimes the level of stress is unbearable, causing workers to leave their jobs.

Lower productivity – when members of the team are in conflict with each other, that conflict has a negative effect on the entire project. Conflict drains energy and lowers productivity. The effectiveness of teams relies in large part on their ability to work in a cooperative manner. When that cooperation is disrupted, the progress of the whole team suffers. Whether the clash is overtly obvious, or subtle, personality conflicts affect the morale of team, and sometimes entire office.

Handling personality clashes

The good news is that while workplace conflicts are unavoidable, there are ways to minimize them.

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Some things to keep in mind:

  • Your way is not always the right way, and your personality is not necessarily the “normal” one.
  • Except that, people have different perspectives. All are valid.
  • Different personalities, if handled correctly, can strengthen a team by contributing different ideas and solutions.
  • When personality conflicts have reached the point where they interfere with the ability to work, it’s necessary to deal with them.

Strategies:

Acceptance – sometimes all that’s necessary to defuse a personality conflict is a little bit of kindness and understanding. When we’re able to accept personality differences, it often defuses defensiveness and friction.

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Stay professional – conduct yourself in a professional manner. Be calm and courteous during interactions. Even when personality differences exist, if both parties remain professional, confrontation can be avoided. It’s not necessary for coworkers to like each other to work together effectively. Remain professional and don’t take it personally. Watch your tone. It’s important to make sure the tone of your communications whether in person, via e-mail or over the phone is appropriate and not hostile.

Find the source – when personality conflicts do arise, it’s important to determine what the real issue is. Is it just a difference of opinion, or is there a more serious underlying problem? It’s a good idea to address the problem with the other person directly. It’s important for both parties to be aware and have an understanding of the conflict in order to have any hope of resolution.

Take it to management – if you have been unable to resolve a personality conflict that is interfering with your work, it may be necessary to bring it to the attention of management. Sometimes effective mediation by third-party is all that’s necessary to defuse conflict. Some companies offer workshops or training that teach coworkers how to navigate difficulties and learn to get along with each other, despite differences. When those strategies don’t work, it may be necessary for management to separate the parties involved in the conflict. Sometimes it may be possible to simply assign the individuals to different projects or teams. In extreme cases, it may be necessary for one of the parties to be transferred to another department or division to eliminate contact.

Personality conflicts can be one of the biggest challenges in the workplace. Conflicts can usually be diffused by acceptance, understanding, appropriate action, and professionalism. Its imperative to remember that while you cannot control the behavior of other people, you can control how you react to it. When conflicts can be resolved, the result is a happier and more productive workplace. The important thing is not to let personality conflict and destructive work relationships interfere with your career. Address them, resolve them, or as a last resort move on.

Featured photo credit:  fighting between white via Shutterstock

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Royale Scuderi

A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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