Behind the scenes of personality clash at work

Don’t let a personality clash get the best of you! Read on, and find out which of your coworker's traits you may need to adapt to.

Work environment
Team Building
Employee Experience

Christine Chartrand

VP Consulting Services

Monday, June 06, 2022


Our jobs expose us to many different types of people; people we sometimes need to collaborate with on a regular basis in order to get tasks completed and projects delivered. If employees were all built the same way, with similar approaches to things and identical styles of communication and behavior, would this necessarily be a good thing?

Different personalities bring a lot more diversity, unique points of views, and more importantly, diverse strengths that can be allocated to specific roles and responsibilities. But, it may also bring a personality clash, which can explain why you might find certain co-workers more frustrating than others. Let us look at some reasons for this.


Some may see differences as weaknesses

Have you ever judged someone in a negative way for not sharing the same work method as you? Perhaps you even went as far as labelling them unproductive or non-performing?

You know what I’m talking about!

It’s the co-workers that throws up a roadblock in your plan by suggesting to do something differently, or taking too much time implicating others when all you want to do is get on with it. It’s the person who wants to plan every detail while others are comfortable putting in that extra effort last minute to deliver.

Whatever the difference, the easy way is to deem the other as annoying, or worse, wrong! It takes a lot more willpower to see the other’s difference as, well, a difference in strengths.


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Personality, personality, personality! That seems to be the only word we hear when talking about human resources management. Whenever anyone talks about job-fit, cultural-fit, conflict resolution, and even team productivity, personality always ends up taking center stage. Sure, personality is important. It makes sense, anyway; certain personalities make an individual more suitable for a certain job, company, and team.


Is the problem that you are too alike?

While differences are sometimes easier to highlight, a personality clash may also be stemming from 2 people being way too alike, especially when their similarities are in the same extreme personality dimensions.

Imagine if you will, two highly assertive people, who have taken their assertiveness to a whole new level. Although there are many strengths linked to this particular trait, when two people do not see eye to eye on a topic, this is when it may be problematic.

Expect a heated, honest conversation, yet one that may bring about some frustration not only for the parties involved, but for others that are working on the same project.


The “not-so-obvious” annoying colleague

Aside from personalities that are very “in-your-face”, loud and upfront, there are other personality clashes that involve the more discreet, low profile co-workers. You might be wondering why these people are rubbing you the wrong way, and it may be because they are not fully honest with you to your face, or you find out they are talking behind your back to others instead of being straight with you.

They may be the ones that are holding grudges because of something you did or said, yet never told you they were upset in the first place. So this constant guessing game is causing you a lot of frustration. Perhaps they have very non-confrontational personalities, which leads them to accumulate emotion and anger, or they are anxious about receiving any criticism, so they refrain from telling someone like it is.


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Are sociability differences to blame?

If you are an introvert, you may find your extroverted colleagues a tad overwhelming, and at times, disruptive… not because they are mean or disrespectful, but because of their tendency to want to embark on discussions, bounce ideas off others and be outward with their emotions.

Some find these qualities very inspiring and energizing, while others fall under a personality clash. And conversely, extroverts might find the discrete and isolated introvert quite dull and cold…yet another misperception! So although a coworker’s sociability doesn’t match your own, try not to generalize and, instead, see them as having strengths that you don’t possess.

Together, you would be equipped to take on many things!


Whatever the personality clash may be: be part of the solution!

To stop these relationships from snowballing, it’s likely YOU that will need make the first move. Create a safe and inviting environment for you both to discuss in. Don’t attack, and give your co-worker the opportunity to speak up and share arguments without being cut-off. Remember that you might have an easier time confronting than he does, and that this situation may be causing him a lot more stress, despite what is being projected on the surface. Reassure him that he can come see you directly, and make it a point to check in.

If you are his manager, it’s important to create opportunities for this employee to talk about the “not-so-great” things that have been happening throughout the week, especially things that have been frustrating him. Make it a regular check-in session, asking him to state 2-3 things that went well this month, and 2-3 things that needed improvement. You must highlight the fact that he will not be judged, and that what he has to say is important.


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Let’s face it, when you are spending 8 hours a day with the same colleagues, it’s not really their experiences or education that will determine what type of relationships you will have with them…it’s their personalities!


So whether you and your co-worker differ, are similar, or you can’t quite pinpoint why they are frustrating you, remember that personality is most likely the culprit. But this doesn’t mean you are at a dead end. Learning that a person with a different personality also encompasses different strengths can help reduce conflict, help you appreciate others and make you think twice before passing judgment.

So the next time you deem a colleague annoying, find out what aspects of your personalities are in need of more attention, and maybe even more acceptance.

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