Clashing Personalities — What to Do When People Collide

Clashing Personalities — What to Do When People Collide


Conflict in the workplace is at best a minor distraction and at worst causes major malfunctions in a department. Most conflicts fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, and the type with the longest lasting effect is interpersonal conflicts. Sometimes personalities clash and the management team might feel like an ignored referee in a boxing match if the situation is handled poorly.


There are ways to prevent interpersonal conflicts at work, such as:


    • Differentiating between interpersonal conflicts and what Human Resource Executive Online calls “work-system conflicts” between an employee and things like procedures, work quality, or productivity.


    • Not maintaining an “open door policy” but instead teaching employees to complain about someone when their actions prevent the complainant from doing their job well, compromise safety or legality, or are particularly annoying (although the complainant needs to be specific about what is annoying).


    • Clearly spell out to all employees what behavior is unacceptable in the workplace so there are no excuses.


But when employees do clash, managers need to be responsive to the complaint while being respectful to all parties. The most difficult part of mediating a conflict is that a manager can become trapped in the “he said, she said” dilemma.


In this situation, Human Resources Executive Online suggests that management or human resources needs to make a decision about who to believe based on past track records of both the complainant and the person whom the complaint regards.


Once this decision is made, the manager or HR representative needs to sit down and respectfully explain appropriate behavior in the workplace to whomever is found to be at fault (and maybe both). If the actions are repeated, more severe action can be taken. Of course, both management and HR need to lead by example for the best results.


Solving conflict well also means taking office politics into account. Managers should stay in touch with their front-line supervisors to better understand the inner-workings and challenges that arise between employees.

The information provided in this blog is intended for general information purposes only. Readers should seek the help of an HR professional for guidance on specific issues.