The good news is we are all different people with unique talents, abilities, and personalities. The bad news is we are different people with unique talents, abilities, and personalities, that often clash. I know people get on my nerves just like I’m sure I do to them. The result of these different personalities all working on the same team – sometimes under high-pressure situations – is that clashes will happen.
I’ve been in the middle of quite a few clashes, which have taught me how to learn to get along better with others so we can get our work done together.
Here are eight ways to put a stop to those regular “discussions” (i.e., clashes) on the team:
Reflect on what is causing the clash.
I’ve found that not all clashes relate simply to opposing personalities. Sometimes, it has to do with opposing points of view where neither side is willing to compromise. Other reasons relate to outside influences that are impacting people’s emotions and the spillover into the team is causing tension or it could be pressure tied to limited resources, expectations of management, more time spent together or various attitudes that cause toxicity on the team.
It’s important to know what is causing the clash because the knowledge of the cause helps when trying to fix it.
Address the conflict immediately before it contaminates the entire team.
It’s been said one rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel. While I’m not saying it’s one person on the team that can be the cause, what I have seen is how the actual clashing between team members becomes that bad apple that spoils the whole team and what they’ve been able to accomplish.
In situations where a clash has happened, the faster I’ve been able to get in there and resolve it between team members, the better the situation becomes and is handled in a way that doesn’t derail the work that has been done to date. However, I’ve also seen where managers have left our team to deal with it only to become like a toxic waste dump where the team becomes no good to anyone. Better to call out the clash as soon as it is experienced – and to get past it.
Talk it out.
While it might seem like it would lead to numerous arguments, I’ve participated in discussions where there had been a clash with other team members. Once everyone agrees to communicate about the clash, the result has been that it is often a misunderstanding or was about other issues besides what was presented by the team member. This talking has to be done in a rational way, and sometimes with rules, where opinions are shared rather than finger pointing and victimization, which both only serve to reignite the clash.
Talking it out also requires active listening on the part of teaching team members so that everyone understands the context for the clashes.
Focus on the common ground tied to achieving the same aim and realizing shared benefits.
One of the best ways I’ve seen to take the high road and get beyond regular clashes is to always focus on what everyone gets by cooperating with each other – they achieve the aims the company has set for them and they all realize a certain benefit from doing so.
I may not particularly like or agree with a team member, but we do have things in common – like wanting the company to win – that can help both of us move past our individual dislike of each other.
It’s not about us; it’s really all about the company’s success.
Suggest some type of compromise on the part of both involved.
In promoting the thinking that the team exists solely to help the company, it means that those who clash will need to start thinking about what type of compromise they each need to make. When both see that they have to give something up in order to create peace for the team, the clash may suddenly not seem as important as it once was.
On one team, I was willing to make a sacrifice where I gave part of my task to the team member that I clashed with. By doing so, it was a peace offering that made them happy and took away the tension between us. I had more free time and less stress, so I was relieved they took a part of it. After that, we both got along with each other.
Meet up outside the office.
In one job where my team member and I had a conflict, I decided to invite him out after work to see if talking outside of the work environment would help us get through the ongoing clashes we had. During this time away from work in a more relaxed environment, we got to know each other better and in a different way, and by the end of the evening we were laughing together like old friends. This camaraderie stuck with us the rest of the time we worked together. All we needed was time alone to get to know each other and figure out where we each were coming from in terms of our perspective. While this may not always resolve the clashes, it is worth a try!
Consider creating shifts at work with limited face time.
Even though teamwork is the emphasis, the fact of working together too much in a confined space might not work well. The close proximity may mean that it’s better to create different shifts at work where those that clash are not always there at the same time. The divide and conquer approach to playing in the same sandbox has proven useful in some of the teams I’ve managed. It’s true when they say that absence can make the heart grow fonder or, in this case, simply dampen down those clashes and take some pressure off the team cooker.
I don’t suggest this as a replacement for ensuring the clash gets addressed, but I do see it as a solution in those situations where some people can only work together in the same room for a limited time.
When all else fails, change the team chemistry.
I’ve been on teams where everything on this list has been tried and more, but the reality is that the team chemistry is just wrong and needs to change. It can get better simply by reassigning one team member and replacing them with someone that has the right competencies, shared values, and a focus on collaboration that results in synergy.
Clashes are bound to happen and I’d much rather just make a change rather than spend any longer on trying to make everyone get along.
All of these tips for getting along better with your work team when you actively clash share a common theme: everything focuses on taking a positive, proactive approach to dealing with the conflict. There are no punishments, threats, or harsh tactics listed here because that angle simply doesn’t help when there is already pressure and tension in the room. However, by staying positive, the team focuses on the idea that it’s okay to be different but that these quirks cannot get in the way of achieving the overall goals that help the company and the team succeed.