Personality Conflicts in the Workplace

Workplace conflicts negatively affect all aspects of a company's operations.
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Martin Nowak, professor of biology at Harvard University, writes in “Supercooperators,” that cooperation, in addition to mutation and natural selection, is key to the survival of the human species. Cooperation is essential to corporate survival, as well. Unfortunately, a conflict due to incompatible personalities may prevent cooperation and communication between employees, each of which has a direct impact on a company's financial and operational results.

Definition of Personality Conflict

    When what one person wants does not match what the next wants, you have a conflict. In the workplace, incompatible ideas may relate to a variety of issues, including the allocation of resources and the adoption of particular business strategies. People deal with intense disagreements or opposing ideas in a number of ways, including verbal or physical fighting.

Cost of Workplace Conflicts

    C-level managers make conflict management a strategic priority in their businesses because of the negative effects of conflict on their company’s productivity, decision making and retention. According to a 2008 study on workplace conflict commissioned by CPP Inc., each U. S. employee spends about 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. That includes working to resolve the deadlock and the inaction that can result as people bring diverse perspectives and expertise to their tasks. Ycharts reported November, 2012 average hourly earnings of $23.63, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 115.6 million fulltime workers at the same time. Do the math and you have approximately $33.13 billion per week in lost wages.

Causes of Personality Conflicts

    Causes of workplace tension include conflicting needs, styles and perceptions. For example, when the “have-nots” compete with the “haves” for scarce resources during a budget cycle, tempers may flare. In addition, workers who prefer a structured environment are sometimes at odds with workers who prefer an unstructured environment. Conflicting goals and personal values also play a part in personality conflicts, as do unpredictable workplace policies. For example, a programmer's objective is to meet client needs, whereas a program manager is responsible for controlling the scope of software development projects. Other key factors include conflicting pressures and roles. For example, an accountant may receive conflicting instructions from a CFO and software project manager during a software implementation project.

Remedies for Personality Conflicts

    You can reduce some clashes by simply reducing the contact between two employees. You might also focus on individual contributions and attempt to respect the opinions of others. You might consider how your actions contribute to office tension. Equally important, you could ask your co-worker to work with you to solve existing issues. In addition, try make no assumptions or statements until you listen to what your coworker has to say. If your differences are significant, ask your manager for advice on handling the situation, and then do what is necessary to resolve the problem.

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