We’ve all experienced it in some shape or form during our working lives.
Walking out of client meetings frustrated because you couldn’t get in a word in edgewise.
Experiencing the tangible tension as you enter the office the day after an argument with a colleague.
Shedding tears after a performance review all because of a simple misunderstanding.
You get the picture.
Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. Put a bunch of different people in a room to work together for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and there’ll be some friction along that road to your common goal.
Workplace conflict may be unavoidable, but it’s also manageable. It starts with understanding the root of the conflict. Most of the time, we can blame a clash of personalities.
I don’t believe anyone should ever change their personality to reduce conflict in their workplace. Stay true to who you are. But, there’s an art to learning how to work with different personalities at your 9 to 5.
How? Keep reading and to find out.
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Acknowledge you won’t get along with everyone
It’s impossible to like every person you meet. And that’s okay. Our differences as humans create natural conflict between us. Even our similarities can be cause for contention!
Rather than get caught up in the emotionally draining activity of being a best friend to all, acknowledge that you won’t like everyone and not everyone will like you. The moment you do, you’ll feel lightened by offloading that burden.
Of course, there’ll be people who you instantly connect with. People who “get” you, who you feel safe confiding in and would be keen to spend time with outside work hours. That’s great. Just recognise that for everyone else, being cordial enough to work well together is key.
Focus on one positive quality or character trait
What’s the one thing you like about the person? Focus on that.
Even for your greatest workplace nemesis, there must be at least one character trait you admire (or tolerate) about them. Maybe it’s their work ethic, their uncompromising honesty, or their ability to establish an immediate connection with a client.
Whatever it is, choose to focus on that one quality each time you interact with them, it’ll help make your interactions more positive. If not positive, then bearable!
Agree to disagree
Diversity in the workplace is a beautiful thing.
It’s become a buzz word across many industries but that doesn’t diminish its value. We need diversity of backgrounds, experiences, values, and perspectives to achieve the best possible outcomes. Diversity helps us avoid the pitfalls of groupthink.
What’s groupthink? Groupthink is a psychological concept that a group that desires only consensus results in suboptimal outcomes because of poor critical thinking.
Diversity leads to disagreement, disagreement encourages critical reasoning, critical reasoning prompts a review of different alternatives. The result? Better decisions.
So, grow comfortable with agreeing to disagree. Because in a diverse workplace, it’s inevitable.
There are thousands of books on social psychology and personalities; pick one up and read it. These books are packed with information, practical examples and life experiences that uncover the reasons behind why we do what we do.
The internet is also flooded with personality tests and models – Myers-Briggs, DISC Profile, Enneagram – you can take the tests yourself or read the information available to deepen your knowledge. Some are more credible than others, so do your research first.
Learning about different personalities and how they influence mindset and behaviour is a valuable tool to navigating the clash of personalities in the workplace.
Explain the “why”
Reading up on personalities doesn’t only help you discover how others tick, in the process you also discover how you tick. You learn why you do the things you do.
Now that you know, tell others. Maybe you’re an introvert and you prefer an email followed up by a phone call to allow you to process your thoughts, rather than being put on the spot with an impromptu call.
Remember, people can’t read your mind. To counter assumptions made about you and unrealistic expectations, explain the “why”.
Unconscious biases exist in many contexts, especially the workplace. It’s easy to favour those who look, think, sound, and act like us. It’s part of the human condition. But when assessing performance, leave it at the door.
Be aware of when the feedback you give to colleagues, team members or service providers encroaches on a comment on their personality rather than their quality of work.
Summary to save for later:
I’ll admit that a lot of these strategies to work well with different personalities are easier said than done. Though I now work solo most of the time, I certainty struggled to put some of these into practice on my most “high friction” days at work.
It’s difficult but not impossible! Having an awareness is the first step.
What do you do to help you work well with different personalities? Please share your wisdom by leaving a comment!
Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with entrepreneurs and businesses in financial services, consulting and education, writing quality-rich content to engage their readers and motivate action. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.