Leaders, Don’t Mislabel All Issues as Personality Conflict
Leaders who are averse to conflict, quickly mislabel interaction issues as — just a personality conflict.
It’s one of those feel good denial reactions that creates additional problems. Mislabelling it as a personality conflict ignites hidden resentments. It also fails miserably as it overlooks the true issues to be resolved. That’s not to say that a personality conflict can’t arise. It can.
Yet there are many other causes of interaction difficulty. People may have different definitions of team and teamwork. There may be low trust or little respect. It’s important to determine the true causes instead of writing it all off to just a personality conflict.
A new leader (Bill) joined the leadership team. He has 5 peers and each oversees a different department. They and their teams must interact to deliver a wow customer experience. During the first week, Bill makes many demands on the peer he interacts with the most (Pat). He ultimately says to Pat, “I always get my way.”
When Pat requests a more team based approach, Bill takes offense. The high level leader (Lee) meets with Bill and Pat and says, “you two are having a personality conflict.”
Lee made a big mistake. He lost Pat’s trust that day. Assuming that two people who are having a conflict are having a personality conflict solves nothing. It also makes the leader (Lee) look weak and illogical.
What to Do Instead?
- Establish and Honor a Baseline. Leaders who engage everyone in developing effective baseline behaviors pave the road to success. In today’s culturally diverse workplace, discussions expand understanding and prevent lots of conflicts. Once people establish baseline behaviors, it’s much easier to see errant behavior from a personality conflict.
Important baseline behaviors to discuss:
- Behaviors for shared spaces
- Rules on texting during important meetings
- Acceptable ways to disagree and discuss strong views
- Handling aggressive and passive aggressive behavior
- Dig to Discover. If the interaction issues in question are not errant behaviors, then find out what’s happening. To do this well, leaders must promise those who speak up that they will not be punished or minimized for the information they offer.
It works well to have everyone involved to say what they are experiencing and what they would like to experience instead. This prevents gripe fests and discovers workable solutions.
- Follow-through. Even if you are using HR or outside consultants to help you through this, leaders must stay involved. It is your expectation of improvement and your follow-through that bolsters employees’ commitment. Interaction affects the bottom line.
Don’t just delegate this to someone and turn away. Assess, inspire, and stay involved.
Risks to Mislabeling Issues as Personality Conflict
- Divisiveness. When leaders skip over discovering the trouble, the trouble persists. Un-addressed issues fester and feed frustration. Resentment grows as the leaders replace the truth with their assumptions of a personality conflict.
- Mistrust and disrespect. Employees tap leaders for their insight, objectivity, strength, and honesty. When leaders tap dance around the issue instead of thinking it through, people lose trust and respect for those leaders. The loss of trust lingers and impacts the organization’s results.
- Self-protection. When someone raises an issue about interaction problems and the leaders quickly pass it off as personality conflict, people think they are being punished for speaking up. After that, those who raised the issues go into self-protection mode. They block the open mindset needed for resolution and organizational success.
- Weakened Core Values. The modern workplace is sustained with core values of respect, honesty, truth, and accountability. When leaders twist any situation into something it isn’t, it undermines interaction that could otherwise keep the organization moving forward. Whether it’s leader to leader, employee to employee, or leader and employee, discovering the true issues and addressing them appropriately secures the core values of success.
Most everyone can see the value in positive workplace interaction. What some leaders don’t see is that they play a key role in sustaining it through their accurate assessment. This doesn’t mean you are babysitting — a metaphor often misapplied in these moments. You are leading!
There is even evidence to show that employees leave jobs because of mislabelled un-addressed interpersonal issues that have made work intolerable. In the end, leaders who invest in sustaining the core values of interaction inspire collaboration and fuel success.
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
©2015 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email email@example.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.
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~Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™