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5 Keys to Dealing with Difficult Personalities at Work

by | Aug 4, 2021

Let’s face it, dealing with difficult personalities is hard work. Left unaddressed, however, unhealthy conflict creates tension, reduces productivity and can wreck workplace cultures. Although it can be hard to reconcile different work styles and value systems, it’s important for colleagues to find a way to get along.

The next time you’re about to lose your cool with the person in the next cubicle, try these tips before you say something you’ll regret!

  1. Look in the mirror. One of the most effective things you can do is to examine your own actions to determine what you’re contributing to the conflict. The truth is, in most conflict situations both parties share fault. Although you can’t control how other people act, you can control your own feelings and responses. Starting with an intentional look at yourself drastically reduces conflict.
  2. Look for the positive. Everyone (almost) has positive things! Although their quirks may annoy you, if you look you’ll probably find positive traits you’ve been missing. Focus on their strong points and what they contribute in the workplace. You’ll appreciate them more.
  3. Listen more than you talk. My grandmother used to remind me there’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth! Instead of incessantly focusing on ourselves, try listening to your coworker to better understand who they are. This might include where they were raised, went to school or simply the latest book they’ve read. The key is to listen for common ground.
  4. Make it personal . You may be tempted to send an email rather than speak face-to-face with someone who annoys you. However, personal interactions often will help you find common ground. Take the time to visit with them in person, focusing on learning about and understanding what drives them. Adding personal value to someone always reduces conflict.
  5. Set boundaries. Unfortunately, some people simply don’t like each other. If your efforts to make peace keep stalling, you may need to agree to disagree. When you’ve tried everything, but the relationship remains toxic, limit your interactions to business essentials. Just remember, while there are people you simply may not like, there are also people who don’t like you!

Conflicts are natural, especially when you’re spending 40 hours a week with someone you might not choose for a friend. Knowing how to handle personality conflicts at work will help you increase cooperation and reduce misunderstandings. When this happens, everyone wins!