I don’t believe in “personality clashes” – at least not in the sense of “Oh, they’ll just never get on – it’s a personality clash”. When I hear that phrase uttered at work, it seems to me to be a way of explaining why the two people concerned have not been ‘encouraged’ by their manager to learn how to get along with each other. A justification for avoidance. A justification for not dealing with the behaviour and leaving the people involved (and around them) to work within the hostility.
Of course, there are people we don’t get on with and with whom we’ll never identify or want to get to know well, because we have, for example, such different values. That doesn’t mean we cannot focus on our shared objective at work and appreciate what we each bring to the job.
What do I think is at the source of a “personality clash”? In my experience, I think it often stems from a difference in value systems in the people concerned, a difference in how they view and manage their worlds, along with a lack of willingness/desire to understand each other’s perspectives. This can be exacerbated by an unhelpful or hurtful action (often unintentional) that starts off the bad feelings. For instance, two women I knew worked together (one managed the other one) and the one being managed felt unsupported by something her manager had done. Rather than discussing it, she started to needle her manager and the manager ignored the behaviour in the hope that it would go away. Over time, this conflict grew to the stage where the section manager decided that the best way to deal with them was to separate them and have them working in two different teams in different offices. Harmony was restored… until ten years later, when in a reorganisation, they were reunited… and it was hell for them and everyone around them!
How can we avoid this? Both has individuals and as managers? I don’t profess to have all the answers, but here are a few ideas. Firstly, deal with disagreements or upsets as they come along – don’t leave them to fester. Secondly, accept that we won’t get on with everyone we work alongside – but we can appreciate what they bring to the team. Thirdly, seek to see the world from their perspective – ask questions, genuinely be curious about what makes them tick. Finally, let’s not take ourselves too seriously… yes, we do serious work and we can often get passionate about our work… and we can accept that we might be “wrong”, or at least there is more than one “right”.
What do you think? Have you ever been in the middle of a “personality clash”? Does any of this ring true for you, or do you see it differently? I accept I might be wrong…!
Yvonne Coolbear, Licensed Springboard, Fresh Steps and Boost Trainer
Views expressed by the writer are not necessarily the views of the Springboard Consultancy Ltd