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How to Manage Personality Conflicts When You Lead a Team

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

You received that promotion because you're really good at your work, and at managing a team. While you probably went through a honeymoon period during which everyone got along, good work was delivered and your bosses were happy, it is inevitable that personality conflicts within your team will arise. We spend so much of our lives at work, co-workers become just as much a family as the real family we leave at home. And like every family, there are times when people clash. It doesn't make you a bad manager. In fact, it is an opportunity to prove just how strong a manager you are. How you handle those personality conflicts within the team will make the difference between coming together even stronger than before or falling apart. So here are a few simple steps to follow to manage those trying personality conflicts within your team.

First and foremost, keep it friendly. The last thing you want to do is add to the animosity and make it worse. Even if you feel one party is in the right and the other is totally wrong, treat both of them courteously and with empathy. You've probably bumped heads with a co-worker yourself, and the manager handling it with respect to both parties made a big difference. So extend that same kindness, and work to keep the overall environment friendly and inclusive. That alone may help the conflict resolve itself.

Second to friendliness is professionalism. It's incredibly important that everyone on your team understand what behavior is appropriate and sanctioned, and what isn't. You need to be clear and firm with your rules for professionalism. Don't add any drama to the situation, but successful employees are highly driven, and need guidance to maintain perspective. Lead by your example, and show your team that while you want everyone to get along, the office is still a place of business.

Once the atmosphere is properly managed and the professionalism of the workplace is clearly being respected, take the time to get to the root of the problem. Gossip can often cause major issues at work, and you need to hear the truth from both parties. Try and handle this on a one-on-one basis, so your team can speak freely, and let them know your goal is to resolve the issue. If there are any simple differences of opinion or real work issues, see what you can do to take care of them. If it's a larger problem that can't be solved through policy, the people involved may need to figure out how to let it go. You can unite your team through ironing out a manageable problem, but two people that clash like oil and water will have to validate their reasons or move on.

If the issue cannot be handled, there are a few steps you should take. First, document the problem. You'll want a full accounting of the issue, so take the input from the people involved, add your take and get it on paper. It may help your company pick or train future employees, as well as give you tools with which to handle a similar problem the next time around. Then determine if you need to bring the situation to your managers. If two people simply don't like each other and it continues to get in the way of their work, one or both of them may need to be transferred. It shouldn't result in someone being let go, unless the situation is truly grievous, but if you feel it is making a real, lasting impact on your team, take your documentation and see what can be done. In the end, people only act out at work if there's a real issue behind it. Maybe one of them is just truly unhappy, and would rather be working through a masters healthcare MBA online course and changing their career. Don't let it fester. Your tact and professionalism will leave everyone in a better place in the end.

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