Personality Differences and Unhealthy Conflict in the Office

Personality differences are behind most conflicts in the workplace. Get in front of these problems with analytics.

Personality differences in the workplace can be a powerful stimulus for new ideas and creative collaborations, and can even help organizations gain a competitive advantage. By looking at things differently, acting differently, solving problems differently, and bringing different ideas into the mix, your team members are enabling you to compete in a wider variety of situations. back to back conflict

However, if not managed properly, these differences can escalate quickly from productive, to destructive and expensive; in the US alone, conflict in the workplace costs employers well over a billion dollars annually in lost productivity, including increased absenteeism and high turnover (Johnston, 2012).

Research indicates that personality differences are behind most conflicts in the workplace (SHRM, 2013). So how do organizations get in front of the problem, (re)build trust and improve productivity? A behavioral assessment can be a powerful tool to help employees proactively recognize and respond to conflict. Here’s why:

  • One of the main reasons disconnects occur, is that we often personalize the responses we get from others and interpret them from our own perspectives and experiences. By bridging the conflict with scientific data however, both parties are able to disregard the “emotion” of the situation and focus objectively on the communication issue at hand.
  • By looking at the behaviors and motivating needs of those involved in a conflict, you can gain an objective understanding of similarities and differences between individuals, which could be contributing to the underlying cause of the difficulties.
  • Behavioral assessment data provides a foundational and nonthreatening way to discuss difficult situations by focusing attention on the problem, not the person.
  • Analytics help individuals design an effective approach to conflict resolution that will be most acceptable to and effective with the people involved. Behavioral data highlight the best path forward for coaching and development in terms of communication, delegation, risk taking, or other areas where a gap in understanding may exist.
  • Behavioral data can be applied to all situations, such as the relationship between a manager and an employee, the employee with his/her direct peers or others within the organization. It can also be valuable at the individual, team and company levels within your organization.

Working with others inevitably includes disagreements and differences of opinion. How one handles these situations however, determines if the outcome will be a success or a stalemate. Taking the time to think about your own and your teammates behavioral motivating needs can help you anticipate and objectively understand how others will react and respond to your actions, and allows you to adjust your approach to enhance trust and build productive working relationships.


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