Resolving Personality Conflicts at Work
Sooner or later, everyone has interpersonal conflicts with colleagues. Such rifts can drag on for years. With the right technique, most can be resolved quickly.
Understand The Cause
Sometimes it’s clear why a person doesn’t like you or why you don’t like him/her. Perhaps you said or did something the other person objected to—or vice versa. If you have no idea why someone dislikes you, the animosity probably has more to do with him that with you.
Some possible causes are:
- He thinks you dislike him. It doesn’t take much for a person with low self-esteem to jump to this conclusion. In his mind, his dislike is simply reciprocal.
- He feels threatened by you. You may be more successful at work or happier at home. He may envy you and imbue you with negative traits to justify his dislike.
- He sees characteristics in you that he dislikes in himself.
Example: A stubborn person may negatively to someone who is close-minded because he recognizes that trait in himself— consciously or not.
Be the bigger person. Regardless of what the cause of the problem may be, you can resolve the conflict in the same way.
Confide in a mutual friend something that you like about the person who is holding a grudge. Usually, the mutual friend will relay the compliment. This is more effective than a face-to-face compliment, which may seem insincere to someone who dislikes you.
Allow the person to do something for you.
It would seem that the way to get someone to like you is for you to do something for him. In truth, it is more effective to let him do something for you. This gets him invested in you. It can allow him to feel better about himself for doing a good deed.
It also makes use of a psychological phenomenon called cognitive dissonance. A person feels that he needs to have a favorable impression of someone for whom he has done a favor, or else why would he have done the good deed in the first place?
Example: You might say to the mutual friend, “Sally is great in sales meetings. Do you think she would be willing to give me some tips? Would you mind asking her? She may not say yes if I ask.” This way, the third party is sure to relay your compliment along with your request.
Most people boast a bit when trying to boost others’ opinions of them. This only makes someone with a grudge more annoyed. Self-deprecation is more effective. It shows humility, honesty and trust.
Example: Tell an embarrassing story about yourself and laugh along with others.
When you know you have said or done the wrong thing, it is vital to react quickly to prevent a full-fledged conflict from developing. To limit the damage you can:
- Depersonalize it. If the sales staff just heard you yelling at Bob, dilute the insult by dispersing it over a larger group. If you blurted out, “Bob, you really screwed up,” follow up with, “We have all been off our games lately,” or “There has been too much of this sort of thing from the whole company.”
- Apologize. Say that you regret blowing up, especially in front of the staff. Don’t do this until after you have depersonalized the comment. If you jump right to the apology, the impression is that Bob really did blow it, which won’t make Bob feel any better.
- Follow up. Once the situation has cooled down, speak to the person in private. Apologize again for “losing it.” You might add, “I just need a vacation.” This places the blame on you.