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How to Manage Personality Clashes at Work: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: Mar 6

Picture this: You're passionate about your job, deeply invested in your work, and eager to excel. Yet, there's a persistent roadblock that dampens your enthusiasm – the people factor. Or perhaps, you're the leader of a dynamic team, charged with the task of steering a team towards success, only to encounter a unique set of challenges? Challenges that don't come from the tasks at hand or the strategic direction, but rather from the people you're working with.

3 in 5 Australians have had a bad experience working with someone with a different personality type

Personality clashes at work can be challenging, but they're not uncommon. In a diverse workplace, it's natural for individuals with different backgrounds, communication styles, and personalities to sometimes clash. Research for SEEK reveals three in five Australians (60%) have had a bad experience working with someone with a different personality type.

But fret not, for within these clashes lies an opportunity to transform challenges into triumphs. In this blog post, we'll walk you through practical steps to manage personality clashes empowering you to not only conquer these challenges but also to craft a work environment that's as harmonious as it is productive.

Breaking Down the Personality Types

Before we jump into the practical steps for dealing with personality clashes at work, let's take a closer look at the world of different personalities. Understanding these differences is key to resolving conflicts and creating a more peaceful and cooperative work environment. One handy tool for understanding these differences is the DiSC® model. DiSC® is an acronym that stands for the four main behavioral styles outlined in the DiSC model of personalities. D stands for Dominance, i stands for Influence, S stands for Steadiness, and C stands for Conscientiousness.

D: A person primarily in this DiSC quadrant places emphasis on accomplishing results and “seeing the big picture.” They are confident, sometimes blunt, outspoken, and demanding.

I: A person in this DiSC quadrant places emphasis on influencing or persuading others. They tend to be enthusiastic, optimistic, open, trusting, and energetic.

S: A person in this DiSC quadrant places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, loyalty, and dependability. They tend to have calm, deliberate dispositions and don’t like to be rushed.

C: A person in this DiSC quadrant places emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise and competency. They enjoy their independence, demand the details, and often fear being wrong.

Dale Carnegie DISC Approach

Conflict between different DiSC styles is virtually inevitable in any workplace. Yet, when team members gain a solid grasp of the DiSC model, conflicts can transform into productive discussions, paving the way for effective resolutions. This deeper understanding of both self and colleagues empowers individuals to infuse empathy and emotional intelligence into their approach to conflict management.

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Managing Personality Clashes as a Manager

Step 1: Recognise the early warning signs

It's often the subtle signals that foreshadow potential conflicts. Early signs of tension might manifest in various ways. It could be a sudden drop in team morale, increased stress levels, or a decrease in productivity. Pay close attention to changes in communication patterns – are team members becoming more reserved or confrontational? Are there unexplained absences or an uptick in sick days? These are all potential indicators that something is amiss within your team. When recognising these warning signs early, you can intervene before issues spiral out of control.

Step 2: Understand the nature of the conflict

Picture this step as peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal the core, where the nuances and complexities of workplace clashes come to light.

Here are some of the common threads that weave into these conflicts:

a. Different Personalities: We all bring our unique personalities to the workplace, contributing a diverse range of individual traits, likes, dislikes, and opinions. Naturally, these differences can lead to clashes. For instance, when we encounter a team member whose personality doesn't align with ours, it can disrupt collaboration. Recognising this, we strive to be more open-minded, fostering an environment where diverse personalities coexist harmoniously.

b. Style-Based Conflicts: As diverse as our personalities are our work styles. Some of us charge ahead with rapid progress, while others carefully contemplate before leaping into solutions. This diversity can create challenges when working together. Mutual respect plays a crucial role here, as it involves recognising that diverse approaches contribute to the team's overall success.

c. Interdependent Task-Based Conflicts: In the world of cross-functional processes, interdependence is the norm, and conflicts often revolve around tasks and communication. Delays, misunderstandings, and finger-pointing can be taxing. Effective communication and delegation are paramount in untangling these workplace knots.

d. Cultural Differences: Our backgrounds, beliefs, and cultural roots are varied. These disparities encompass age, gender, values, ethnicity, and even humor. Subtle actions, like speaking in native languages or differing communication styles, can unintentionally sow discord. Embracing cultural diversity and dispelling stereotypes help build bridges instead of barriers.

e. Relationship-Based Issues: Personal emotions occasionally infiltrate the workplace, introducing an additional layer of complexity. For instance, friendships outside of work can blur professional boundaries, impacting both reputations and career growth. Keeping personal and professional lives distinct serves as a shield against such intricately entwined conflicts.

By identifying these underlying causes, we gain a deeper understanding of each party's perspective and motivations. This helps us avoid making hasty judgments based on stereotypes or biases.

Step 3: Let all voices be heard

This step encourages open communication, ensuring that individuals can express their thoughts and concerns without fear of judgment or exclusion. A judgment-free zone where constructive feedback and differing opinions are not only accepted but encouraged is instrumental in resolving conflicts and building a harmonious work environment. Encourage active listening among team members. This means not just hearing words but truly understanding the underlying message. Acknowledge and validate their perspectives to show that their input matters.

Step 4: Cultivate a sense of togetherness

To foster unity, shift the focus from individual success to team achievements. Express gratitude for collective efforts, which reduces competitiveness stemming from personality differences. Working together creates bonds that go beyond surface disparities. Acknowledge different motivations and find common ground for collective progress. This step promotes a united, resilient team.

Step 5: Empower through coaching and training

In this final step of our journey to manage personality clashes at work, we focus on empowerment. Think of it as providing the tools and guidance needed to navigate future conflicts successfully. To foster a harmonious and productive workplace, consider the following:

a. Conflict Resolution Workshops. Equipping your team with practical skills for addressing clashes in a constructive and respectful manner is essential. Workshops like these can play a pivotal role in preventing conflicts from escalating.

b. Leadership Training. Learning how to lead by example in resolving conflicts and creating a positive work environment sets the tone for your team's behavior.

c. Encourage Self-Awareness. Encouraging team members to reflect on their communication styles, triggers, and how they contribute to conflicts can promote self-awareness. This often leads to more thoughtful interactions.

d. Continuous Feedback. Fostering a culture of open and constructive feedback regarding conflict resolution efforts is vital. This ongoing dialogue helps refine conflict management strategies over time.

e. Mentorship Programs. Implementing mentorship programs where experienced team members guide newer ones in conflict resolution and communication skills not only fosters skill development but also builds stronger bonds among team members.

By providing coaching and training opportunities, we empower our teams to handle personality clashes with confidence and maturity. It's an investment in both personal and collective growth, ensuring a workplace where conflicts are opportunities for learning and improvement rather than obstacles to success.

Please take a moment to participate in the poll below and share which coaching or training approach you believe would be most beneficial in managing conflict in your workplace.

Which coaching or training approach do you think would be most beneficial in managing conflict in your workplace?

  • a. Conflict Resolution Workshops

  • b. Leadership Training with Conflict Management

  • c. Promoting Self-Awareness Among Team Members

  • d. Continuous Feedback Culture

You can vote for more than one answer.

Managing Personality Clashes as an Employee

Step 1: Take a breather

In the heat of the moment, when emotions are running high, it's like walking on a tightrope. That's precisely why the first step, "Take a Breather," is your balance beam in these challenging situations. Here's how to use it:

a. Words Matter. Tell your colleague that you'd like a brief break to gather your thoughts. It's not an escape; it's a tactical move.

b. Reflect, Don't Fester. During your breather, don't dwell on the negatives. Instead, think about what's truly bothering you and how you can steer the conversation toward a solution.

c. Inhale Calm, Exhale Stress. Deep breathing exercises can work wonders in calming your nerves. Inhale, exhale, and let the tension flow out.

d. Come Back with Open Ears. When you rejoin the conversation, do so with an open mind and ears ready to listen. The goal is resolution, not a battleground.

Step 2: Verbally acknowledge your differences

Remind yourself that differing viewpoints and personalities are an inherent aspect of any workplace. Rather than viewing clashes as personal attacks, see them as opportunities for personal and collective growth. Emphasise that, at the core, everyone shares a common goal, despite the differences.

Step 3: Understand where the other person is coming from

Dale Carnegie's Principle 17 encourages us to "Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view." This principle holds a key to successful communication that is as relevant today as it was when Carnegie first shared it. Take a moment to genuinely comprehend your colleague's perspective. Strive to understand their viewpoints, motivations, and emotions. This approach nurtures empathy and facilitates effective communication, paving the way to uncover common ground and resolve conflicts.

Step 4: Find common ground

Start by pinpointing shared goals or aspirations that resonate with both you and your colleague. Perhaps it's the success of an ongoing project, the overall well-being of your team, or the relentless pursuit of your company's growth. Search for those hidden gems of shared interests or values that can serve as a rock-solid foundation for mutual understanding and cooperation.

In your quest for common ground, shift the narrative away from dwelling on past disputes. Instead, channel your energy into brainstorming pragmatic solutions that align seamlessly with your shared objectives and interests.

Step 5: Avoid gossiping and get support when needed

It's important to maintain your integrity and seek assistance when necessary. Resist the temptation of gossip, as it rarely leads to a positive outcome. Instead, focus on addressing the issue directly and professionally. Choose your confidants wisely, seeking support and guidance from trusted colleagues or mentors who can offer constructive advice and help you navigate the situation. In some cases, conflicts may escalate beyond what individuals can resolve on their own. If communication breaks down irreparably, consider involving a mediator or HR professional to facilitate a constructive dialogue.

As you put these steps into practice, you'll not only sharpen your skills in handling workplace conflicts but also become a catalyst for fostering a workplace culture where teamwork, respect, and productivity thrive – a win-win for you, your coworkers, and the organisation's overall success.

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