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Managing Conflict at Work

Posted on the 12 September 2012 by Onetest @onetest_hr


Managing Conflict at Work

Just the other day I met a girlfriend for coffee who shared how rattled she was due to conflict with a fellow co-worker of hers. The next day when meeting with another friend, she also had to ‘download’ about a team mate that was ‘doing her head in’. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time a friend of mine has complained about a ‘problematic co-worker’ when we catch up, I could retire! And yet despite the workplace, situation, industry, role, gender and age of the people varying every time, most times the description is the same.

  • They don’t respect me
  • They push my buttons
  • They infuriate me
  • I just can’t seem to get through to them
Yet after further conversation, it becomes evident that it is not only what the person is doing but the way they are doing it which is driving my friends crazy. The people they describe are about as different as they come. Some are too detail focused, others not enough, some are too quick to make decisions, while others seem to drag their feet. Some are overly expressive of their emotions while others are impossible to read!  The list of contradictions goes on and on. Despite all of these people being so obviously different, there is one thing that they all have in common.
In almost all cases, their personality style is the exact opposite to the style of my friend! My friends seem to be suffering from the classic cliché of a personality clash! 
Now I know this problem is not unique to my friends and I would consider my friends a fairly diverse and mature group of people, all mature enough to handle these situations professionally and to the best of their ability. But it dawned on me just how ‘rife’ this condition is. In fact it is almost inevitable that workplaces will be riddled with conflict purely due to the melting pot of personalities organisations provide. In fact, the most successful organisations thrive on proactively building diversity into their workforce because we know that diversity amongst decision making and teams can lead to the most effective outcome.  
So how can organisations actually leverage this diversity effectively rather than suffering from a debilitating case of workplace conflict?
Well again, if I reflect on the conversations held with my friends, as a psychologist I naturally bring the topic of personality into the conversation. Very often when we are able to recognise the personality difference and take the time to understand the unique personality of the other person, this quickly changes the entire nature of the issue and the tone of the conversation. Now my friend has the opportunity to ‘understand how the other person ticks’ and to see the situation from their perspective. The mere insight that a difference in personality exists and therefore motivations and communication styles are likely to differ usually defuses the emotion and frustration of the situation. This insight then provides a path to explore how the working relationship can be improved by finding common ground or ‘tuning into’ each others’ different styles.
Having effective relationships at work that allow us to understand the unique and valuable contributions we all bring to the workplace despite our differences is what differentiates successful organisations from the rest. These companies deploy a range of tools to help gain clear understanding of the unique dynamic of their workforce including personal development tools and assessments.

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