In my experience working with organizations, there are three factors behind most organizational conflicts:
- Differences in behavior and communication styles
- Differences in priorities and values
- Workplace conditions, including poor communications from leaders
Some personalities just seem to clash. It’s important to determine why two people rub each other the wrong way. Do they have opposing behavioral styles?
For example, an extrovert who is open and expressive could view an introvert as hard to read and perhaps untrustworthy. Likewise, a time-conscious, highly organized employee may harshly judge a spontaneous colleague. Someone who is highly analytical and precise might view an intuitive person as impulsive and flaky.
Teaching team members to understand basic human differences can help them overcome tendencies to judge and make assumptions. They can learn to accept coworkers’ differences. Consider using any of the commonly accepted assessment tools, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), another personality inventory or 360-degree feedback.
Workshops provide another option. An extrovert can learn to ask questions to draw out an introvert. The highly organized team member can learn to set more realistic deadlines.
Understanding personality differences can help prevent clashes and conflicts before they become ongoing problems.
I offer several options for learning about personalities in the workplace to help deal with differences and conflicts.
Expectations and Assumptions
People have different needs, values, beliefs, assumptions and cultural frameworks. Our expectations are fed by past experiences. If you erroneously assume that others are essentially mirror images, your lack of clarity can create strife.
Leaders and teams must explore others’ expectations, assumptions, underlying values and priorities. This can be accomplished in group or individual sessions, led by a manager or coach.
When there is an elevated degree of conflict, it’s wise to retain a professional who is trained in interpersonal skills and mediation.
Behind every complaint is an underlying value that goes unsatisfied. Asking questions like “What’s really important here?” often allows people to uncover competing values and priorities. You will facilitate more authentic conversations when you ask the right questions.
What do you think about these ideas? What do you see as a major source of conflict in your organization? I’d love to hear from you.