Shirley's Articles / Communication Skills and Building Relationships

Clash Of The Titans

Resolving personality conflicts

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could all attend a personality analysis seminar? We could find out what personality type we are as well as the personality types of our co-workers, family, friends, and supervisors. We could learn the best way to interact with each and learn how to handle any personality conflicts that arise.

In the real world, though, there often isn’t enough time or money in the budget to send every employee to a seminar. You are usually left hanging out on a ledge, knowing a problem exists, but having no understanding of its causes or solutions.

In order to recognise and resolve a personality clash, make one of those standard double-sided lists, but instead on listing the headings as Pros and Cons, put down names. In the first column, put the name of the person with who you have the personality clash, and in the second column put your name. On the other person’s side write down what bugs you about them. On your side, write down how that makes you feel. You must be honest, though, about yourself and to yourself.

What’s the problem?

What, explicitly, is it about the other person that rubs you the wrong way? Try to be specific. Don’t say “she gets on my nerves” or “he annoys me constantly.” No one else is going to see this so be as specific and honest and you can get.

Does she look down her nose at you when she talks to you? Does he ignore or steal your ideas when you work on a team with him? Be very specific and list everything. Does he leer at you when he smiles? Does she ignore you when you pass in the hallway?

Go ahead! Dig deep and be honest. Once completed, this side of the list should give you a better understanding of the problem itself.

Why is that a problem?

For the other side of the list, note down how each issue makes you feel. Again, be as honest and specific as possible.

If she looks down her nose at you when she talks to you, does that make you feel like she is implying superiority? Does that make you feel like she thinks you are stupid? If he steals your ideas, does that make you feel un-noticed? Or do you feel it’s just not fair?

Even what looks childish on paper can seem huge when faced every day in the office. This side of the list should give you a better understanding of why there is a problem.

How do you fix the problem?

Whatever the problem is and how it makes you feel…whatever the cause…whether real or perceived, the goal is to fix it. Very often personality clashes tend to have the same three possible solutions:

  1. Try to step outside your comfort zone: Move away from your normal reaction. If her tone makes you feel inferior, try to ignore the tone and just listen to the content. If your boss’s behaviour makes you feel like he doesn’t see your contributions, suggest you both present the ideas you’ve come up with together.
  2. Avoid the problem when possible: Remember that working with someone does not mean you have to be BFFs. You don’t even have to like them. You do, however, have to work with them, and only maintaining contact when professionally necessary can be the easiest way to handle a personality conflict.
  3. Have the talk: Talk to the other person face-to-face about the problem. Plan your words ahead of time so you don’t come off as offensive. You might also consider having your boss sit in, which can provide two clear benefits. You have a witness to all that was said, and your boss sees that you are making an effort to resolve the situation on your own.

One of these three options – or a combination of any of the three – should help you manage your personality clash, even if you aren’t able to completely resolve it. A couple of final tips though: If you can’t seem to resolve the problem after making the effort, don’t just drop the problem in your boss’s lap, and don’t drag co-workers into it. Neither will endear you to the rest of the staff, and both could sometimes make the problem worse.

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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