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What personalities clash the most?

7 Steps to Resolve Personality Conflicts in the Workplace

When you just don’t get along with someone at work, it can make life miserable for you both. And though you might wish for a personality transplant for your annoying coworker, that’s probably not going to happen. Here are seven steps you can take that may help make things better.

Personality conflicts are the most commonly reported problems in the workplace. Too often these conflicts go unresolved because people concentrate on the personalities rather than focusing on the issues. When they escalate they create a TOXIC work environment. In any relationship, both people influence the other’s behavior. In personality conflicts both parties bear some responsibility for where “things are at.”

Conflicts can rip teams apart, destroy moral and their quality of life.

We can’t control or change the personality of the other person but we certainly can control our own emotions and change the way we react to the other person.

Use these 7 steps to help de-escalate or resolve conflict with a coworker:

1. Avoid discussing the issue with other colleagues.

Many people who are involved in personality conflicts recruit allies among their co-workers. This can create polarization among co-workers and it escalates the situation. While you are passionately upset about this, others are not and most often co-workers are uncomfortable and sometimes frightened over the situation. This behavior is disruptive to the organization and makes it more difficult to fix the situation. FOCUS on what you can do to make things better!

2. Never respond immediately to the person who is irking you.

They know how to push your buttons and they have done so over a period of time. By not responding immediately you give yourself some time to think through your response and this pause may cause the other person to think that you are backing down and they will begin to de-escalate.

3. Look in the mirror!

How are you contributing to this situation? What role are you playing in the escalation of things? The key is to focus on what you can do differently! What can you do to make things better? If you can figure out your role in the dynamic you’ll learn something important about yourself and you will be able to de-escalate the conflict.

4. Reframe the situation.

For instance, the individual you are dealing with is screaming and yelling and wanting to be right! Instead of becoming annoyed and irritated at their unprofessional behavior, picture them as a child wearing a diaper and throwing a temper tantrum. This allows you to take a step back and not engage.

5. Focus on the other persons strengths.

Remind yourself of the contributions that the other person brings to your company or your team.

When things are going badly, we have a tendency to focus on what doesn’t work and all of the negatives. Focusing on the positive helps us to at least get back to a neutral space and look at things a little more objectively.

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6. Use cooperative communication.

Say things such as “I’ve noticed that we seem to have differences. I have some ideas about how we might be able to work together more effectively and I would like to hear your thoughts.” Invite them to be a part of the solution and really listen to their ideas. If you are unable to communicate either because you are too angry or the other person is, then walk away gracefully rather than standing your ground and allowing things to escalate.

7. Document all interactions in a neutral manner.

It is important to keep track of the confrontations. If you are not able to de-escalate the conflict early on, take the issue to your immediate supervisor or someone in your HR department and have a neutral party mediate the situation.

Conflicts should never be swept under the rug. If you are the supervisor or manager and have employees that are involved in a personality conflict, coach them to resolve their own situation and if that doesn’t work step in! You have a responsibility to the other employees to get control of this situation.

Carol Fredrickson is the CEO and Founder of Violence Free. Clients rely on her skills, knowledge and expertise to prevent 6 and 7 figure lawsuits and more importantly to avert workplace violence. Over 100,000 people have benefited from Carol’s powerful messages. Carol can be reached at or by phone at 623-242-8797. Visit for Carol’s most requested topics that may be a fit for your next meeting.

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Personality clash

A personality clash occurs when two (or more) people find themselves in conflict not over a particular issue or incident, but due to a fundamental incompatibility in their personalities, their approaches to things, or their style of life. [1]

A personality clash may occur in work-related, school-related, family-related, or social situations.

Types [ edit ]

Carl Jung saw the polarity of extraversion and introversion as a major potential cause of personality conflicts in everyday life, [2] as well as underlying many past intellectual and philosophical disputes. [3]

He also opposed thinking and feeling types, intuitive and sensation types, as potential sources of misunderstanding between people; [4] while other typologies can and have been developed since. [5]

In the workplace [ edit ]

Main article: Workplace conflict

The issue of personality clashes in the workplace is controversial. According to the Australian government, the two types of workplace conflicts are when people’s ideas, decisions or actions relating directly to the job are in opposition, or when two people simply don’t get along. [6] Turner and Weed argue that in a conflict situation, don’t ask who, ask what and why. Managers should avoid blaming interpersonal conflicts on personality clashes. Such a tactic is an excuse to avoid addressing the real causes of conflict, and the department’s performance will suffer as a result. Managers must be able to recognize the signs of conflict behaviors and deal with the conflict in a forthright fashion. Approaching conflicts as opportunities to improve departmental policies and operations rather as ailments to be eradicated or ignored will result in a more productive work force and greater departmental efficiency. [7] However, in order to avoid recognizing harsher business bullying situations, employers are more likely to refer to these actions as a personality clash. [8]

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In therapy [ edit ]

Sigmund Freud thought a harmonious match of therapist and patient was essential for psychotherapy; but subsequent experience has demonstrated that success can follow even where there is an underlying personality clash. [9]

Neville Symington indeed saw a patient’s willingness to proceed with therapy, despite her dislike of him, as a positive sign of health, and as a beginning repudiation of her narcissism. [10]

Remedies [ edit ]

Some suggest that the only answer to a personality clash is the folk remedy of distancing — reducing contact with the clashing personality involved. [11] Other recommendations are to focus on the positives in the other person, and to examine one’s own psychodynamics for clues as to why one is finding them so difficult [12] — perhaps due to a projection of some unacknowledged part of one’s own personality. [13]

Howard Gardner saw a major part of what he called interpersonal intelligence as the ability to mediate and resolve such personality clashes from the outside. [14]

Examples [ edit ]

Actual [ edit ]

  • Circumstances conspired to produce a painful personality clash between the ordered, cerebral, emotionally contained A. J. P. Taylor, and the spendthrift, bohemian, expansive Dylan Thomas. [15]
  • The clash between the cautious, moderate Harley and the mercurial, extremist Bolingbroke at the close of Queen Anne’s reign did much to usher in the long Whig ascendency that followed. [16]
  • The personality clash between Henry Tizard and Frederick Lindemann had adverse effects on the Allied conduct of World War Two. [17]

Literary [ edit ]

  • C. P. Snow in his semi-autobiographical novel on the corridors of power described caballing with someone whose temperament «clashed right at the roots with mine: even if he was not being offensive, he would have tempted me to say something hard. But I was doing a job, and I couldn’t afford luxuries, certainly not the luxury of being myself». [18]
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See also [ edit ]

  • Differential psychology
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • Organizational conflict
  • Personality psychology

References [ edit ]

  1. ^Judith Sills, ‘When Personalities Clash’
  2. ^ Carl Jung, Man and his Symbols (1978) p. 46-7
  3. ^ Henri Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious (1970) p. 700
  4. ^ Neville Symington, Narcissism: A New Theory (2004) p. 24
  5. ^Sills
  6. ^Workplace conflict, Better Health Channel.
  7. ^ Turner. S. and Weed. F., Conflict in Organizations, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs NJ (1983).
  8. ^ Namie. G., Workplace bullying: Escalated incivility, Ivey Publishing, London, Ontario, (2003).
  9. ^ Janet Macolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (1988) p. 38-9
  10. ^ Symington, p. 40
  11. ^ J. & M. McCarthy, Software for your Head (2002) p. 178
  12. ^Sills
  13. ^ Jung, p. 181
  14. ^ Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (1996) p. 39 and p. 118
  15. ^ Chris Wrigley, A. J. P. Taylor (2006) p. 92 and p. 182-3
  16. ^ G. M. Trevelyan, The Peace and the Protestant Succession (1965) p. 301-10
  17. ^ D. Wood/D. D. Dempster, The Narrow Margin (1992) p. 82
  18. ^ C. P. Snow, Corridors of Power (1975) p. 132

Further reading [ edit ]

  • C. G. Jung, Psychological Types (London 1971)
  • Ronald W. Clark, Tizard (London 1965)

External links [ edit ]

  • Philip Landau, ‘When personalities clash’
  • ‘Workplace conflict’

Aspects of workplaces

  • Absenteeism
  • Abusive supervision
  • Aggression
  • Anti-pattern
  • Bullying
  • Computer surveillance
  • Conflict
  • Control freak
  • Counterproductive behaviour
  • Coworking
  • Culture of fear
  • Democracy
  • Deviance
  • Discrimination
  • Diversity
  • Divide and rule
  • Drug tests
  • Emotions
  • Employee assistance
  • Employee engagement
  • Employee experience
  • Employee monitoring
  • Employee morale
  • Employee recognition
  • Employee silence
  • Employee surveys
  • Empowerment
  • Evaluation
  • Feminisation
  • Generations
  • Gossip
  • Happiness
  • Harassment
  • Health promotion
  • Health surveillance
  • Hostile work environment
  • Humor
  • Incivility
  • Inequality
  • Intervention
  • Jargon
  • Kick the cat
  • Kiss up kick down
  • Listening
  • Machiavellianism
  • Menopause
  • Micromanagement
  • Mobbing
  • Multilingualism
  • Narcissism
  • Office politics
  • Performance appraisal
  • Personality clash
  • Phobia
  • Positive psychology
  • Privacy
  • Probation
  • Profanity
  • Psychopathy
  • Queen bee syndrome
  • Rat race
  • Relationships
  • Revenge
  • Robotics safety
  • Role conflict
  • Sabotage
  • Spirituality
  • Strategy
  • Stress
  • Toxic workplace
  • Toxic leader
  • Training
  • Turnover
  • Undermining
  • Violence
  • Virtual
  • Wellness
  • Work–family conflict
  • Workload
  • Workwear
  • Aspects of corporations
  • Aspects of jobs
  • Aspects of occupations
  • Aspects of organizations
  • Employment

How to handle staff personality clashes

Employees clashing at work

Personality clashes create a bad atmosphere at work and often impact on motivation and productivity. Rachel Miller finds out how business owners and managers can use mediation techniques to help resolve conflict and rebuild staff relationships

When two people don’t get on at work, the atmosphere can quickly sour and productivity can plummet. Outright hostility is usually hidden but it can show itself in passive aggressive behaviour such as stonewalling and procrastination.

For managers and business owners, problems between their employees are one of the most unpleasant and difficult things they have to deal with.

And yet conflict at work is incredibly common. Research by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, has found that four in ten people say they’ve had problems with their colleagues.

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Personality clashes

The most serious issues, such as bullying or discrimination, are relatively rare; it’s the personality clash that causes most of the problems, according to the CIPD report, Getting under the skin of workplace conflict.

According to the CIPD poll, workers say the two biggest issues they face are differences in personality or working style (cited by 44%) and individual competence or performance (cited by 33%).

Employees that feel resentful or aggrieved usually find it hard to disguise their feelings; their motivation and productivity suffers and the conflict can affect others in the team.

In a small firm, the impact may be even more pronounced. The good news, however, is that small businesses tend to handle these problems better than bigger firms, according to Jonny Gifford, author of the CIPD report. He says: «A small business owner is likely to want to clear the air straight away and talk to those involved. Problems often get nipped in the bud more quickly and more informally.»

Certainly, while formal grievance processes have their place, they are not the best way to sort out these kinds of personality clashes. But managers should not ignore the problem either; otherwise things fester and are more likely to escalate.

Alison Love is the author of The Manager’s Guide to Mediating Conflict. After leaving her career as an employment lawyer she became a professional mediator and says «There’s a far better chance of mediation working if you use it at an early stage.»

Why don’t staff get on?

What are the usual reasons for conflict? «At their core, they are all very similar,» says Love. «They are usually around miscommunications, misunderstanding and different styles of communicating or working. And people can have misguided assumptions about their colleagues’ intentions.»

Email doesn’t help she says. «People often use email more when things are going wrong. You need to invest time in face-to-face conversations.»

Change is another catalyst for conflict, she adds. «People are often unhappy when there has been a change in line management; perhaps someone who was previously a peer has become a new manager. Employees are often used to a particular situation and find it hard to adapt to change.»

The goal of mediation, says Love, «is to establish a dialogue between individuals so they can better understand each other and ultimately restore the relationship.»

The role of the line manager

Dealing with conflict — and avoiding it in the first place — invariably comes down to the line manager, says Love. First and foremost, the worst thing a manager can do is to ignore a toxic relationship within the business.

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«The role of the line manager is absolutely key,» she says. “Training can help managers to spot problems and develop a better understanding of how to intervene to resolve the conflict.»

But many managers don’t want to overstep the mark by getting too involved. «If you see that someone is upset then check in with them and ask if they need help trying to resolve the situation,» suggests Love. «Ask them what have they tried to do about it and give them a bit of coaching. If they are saying they want an opportunity to try and resolve the problem themselves then let them but check back to see how they have done.»

But if things carry on, says Love, a manager may need to become more involved. «Speak to the individuals first and then very quickly set up a dialogue.»

Conflict management

Resolution can take time, warns Love. «I’ve seen management try to rush through a solution and they just made it worse. They didn’t give the employees enough time to feel listened to and understood and then feel safe to open up and see each other’s point of view.»

It’s a delicate process, she says. «What’s important is not what two people are arguing about; that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What is important is what is underneath, for example, recognition or saving face.»

Managers need two core skills to be able to facilitate conflict resolution, says Love. «One of the most important skills is empathetic listening, the ability to truly listen without jumping in. The other is the ability to reflect things back to people using positive reframing,» she says.

«For example, you will often hear a negative statement like ‘He never listens to anything I say!’ The reframing might be ‘It is important to you that he understands what you are saying.’ So you have acknowledged the problem, but given it a positive emphasis. It helps both parties to hear messages in a different way.»

How can you avoid conflict in the first place? «There needs to be room for healthy challenge in the workplace so things get aired; If staff are fearful about raising issues, then problems get bottled up.»

Management style is also crucial, she adds. «The more old-fashioned command and control style of management can cause clashes. It’s much healthier to empower and motivate people by setting objectives and then letting people do things their own way.»

Alison Love offers mediation and leadership coaching as well as mediation services. She is the author of The Manager’s Guide to Mediating Conflict.

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