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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 March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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