We all have some people that we just don’t get along with. But when people who work together have continual clashes over a long time, it can affect the whole workplace.
Continuing personal conflicts can have serious impacts in the workplace. They can reduce morale for the whole staff, increase stress, and reduce effectiveness and productivity. Personality clashes can cause a company to lose clients, miss opportunities and decline productivity.
Like it or not, at some point every manager will have to resolve a conflict between employees.
What’s it really about?
While some personal conflict is about real differences in personality, human resource experts say that more often the issue is structural.
Some personality types just don’t mix well in a workplace. For example, someone who is naturally upbeat and optimistic may feel frustrated and stressed by someone who is more likely to find flaws and point out risks. Both types are needed in any organization. We need people who are willing to try new things, take risks to find new opportunities, but we also need to understand the risks and take steps to manage them.
Someone who prefers to cooperate may clash with a more naturally competitive person. Every organization need both tendencies, and it’s up to the manager to find the right balance.
Another source of conflict can come down to different work styles: some people like to get right onto tasks, while others need deadlines as motivation.
Some prefer working in teams or as a group, with lots of interaction with colleagues. others prefer working alone and focusing on the task at hand.
More often, personal conflict is the result of a lack of understanding of mutual roles, and responsibilities. Two people’s jobs may naturally pit them against each other — for example, two sales agents competing for the same market or the same promotion. There may be no incentive for them to collaborate. Or their responsibilities and goals may be poorly defined.
Finally, one person just may not be working hard enough, or have the skills and knowledge to perform at the level needed, putting more stress on other team members to achieve.
Steps to resolve conflict
First, stay professional. Keep emotion out of your reaction to a personality clash.
Hear both sides out, preferably in a neutral setting. Take each person out of the office, if possible — to a coffee shop, for example. Listen to their side of the story with an open mind. Ask them what they feel should be done, and try to understand their position.
Ask both sides (or all sides, if there are more than two) to propose a solution. Then try to find a common one that all can agree on.
Encourage open communication. Follow up with all parties involved to determine whether the solution has worked and conflict is reduced. If not, bring all parties together — again, in a neutral setting — and ask for more solutions and a timeframe.
Conflicts will occur in any workplace, and a certain amount of disagreement is healthy. It’s your job as manager to prevent personality clashes from affecting the whole team and their productivity.