As a new leader, you soon realise that personality clashes and conflicts are not uncommon and should not be ignored. Disputes between team members create a toxic work environment. Leading a team of people involves being able to observe how they interact and work together. If personalities are balanced, the results are usually good. But, when personality clashes occur, they must be addressed before they negatively impact other members of the team and the entire team dynamic.
Our Unique Personalities Increase the Likelihood of Personality Clashes
So why don’t they all just ‘get along’? Well, your personality may have some similarities to that of others, but it is ultimately unique to you alone. Shaped by your experiences and your interactions with those around you, you have a distinct set of behaviours. Some of these behaviours are helpful, and some sabotage your best efforts to develop and maintain good relationships.
As human beings, we are all made up of a mixture of both positive and negative traits. It’s much easier to build rapport and mutual understanding with people who are similar to ourselves. When they are not the same as we are, it’s equally as easy to blame the other party for the negative impact they have on our own state of mind.
The dynamics of relationships are like a casserole. Some recipes work, some do not. So, stay vigilant and keep a close eye on those ingredients!
If you regularly notice sparks flying between individual members of your new team, it’s time to take action. You may feel uncomfortable dealing with these conflicts initially, but remind yourself that “leadership is not a popularity contest”. To be a great leader, you must take serious responsibility for developing and guiding the full potential of the individuals you manage.
How Can You Approach Resolving Personality Clashes?
It’s almost impossible to identify personality clashes if you’re never in the same room (physical or virtual) as your team. Try hard to make the time to observe how your team members work together. If you suspect conflict, try to identify behavioural tendencies that appear to provoke negativity in others or affect overall morale.
Sometimes it’s simply not an option to spend a great deal of time with your team. In such circumstances, you can use performance reviews or private informal chats with individuals to help you ‘build a picture’. Ask their opinion on team dynamics and how they feel about working with their colleagues. Ask good open questions and spend the higher percentage of your time just listening to answers.
Arrange coaching sessions if you identify personality clashes. It’s vital not to add fuel to the fire, so ensure you avoid being judgemental. Don’t be tempted to ‘point the finger’ at either individual involved. Both parties own some responsibility for the majority of personality clashes.
Either talk to the individuals involved or introduce training and coaching for your entire team on dealing with workplace conflicts. Conflict resolution is an opportunity to inspire personal development for all those involved.
Re-organise (a last resort – not an immediate ‘go to’ to be used as an ‘avoidance strategy’)
If coaching fails to work, it’s your responsibility to make sure the conflict doesn’t impact the rest of your team. However, sometimes it’s almost impossible to persuade certain people to make a real effort to get along with someone they clash with.
It may be possible to re-organise teams or suggest departmental re-shuffles. Look at the strengths of the people involved and decide if you need to make changes to your team structure.
In-Action is Not an Option
Personality clashes are widespread in the workplace, but their negative impact can’t be underestimated. It’s never easy to deal with people who are emotionally involved in a stressful situation. However, it’s vital to the success of your team, your own credibility as a leader and the future of your organisation that you do so.
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Associate tutor of In Professional Development