When Workplace Styles Collide
by Bobbie Little | Chief Learning Officer
While many believe conflicts are due to personality issues, conflicts between employees often can be attributed to colliding work styles. Conflicts often occur between:
a) Intuitive versus factual employees
b) Logic-based versus people-focused decision makers
c) Pressure-prompted individuals versus early starters
For instance, employees depend on their co-workers to get the job done, so if a pressure-prompted individual and an early starter work on the same project, stress and conflict likely will ensue. The issue can escalate into missed deadlines, botched opportunities or even project disasters if things go too far.
Consider the following scenario: An energy company is expanding its solar capabilities. The business development manager is responsible for early resource allocation. The planning manager needs this information to create a plan for his team to execute. What happens if the business development manager has a pressure-prompted work style, and the planning manager is an early starter?
The planning manager will be frustrated, since she can't begin her job until she has the early resource allocation results. She might pester the business development manager to get things moving. This will only annoy him, since he sees no need to significantly beat a deadline. Consequently, when the planning manager finally gets the information, she may be too stressed to organize the best plan for her team.
This type of conflict arises over and over again between managers with opposing styles, and can create a toxic work environment not only for the managers, but also for their support staff.
Company leaders should recognize they likely can't change employees, but they can help them flex their respective styles more effectively. These leaders should help individuals recognize their different styles, focus on a common goal, and make sure their teams are aligned to meet the goal.
Many companies turn to conflict resolution coaching for a solution, which has five main points:
1. Be self-aware.
For example, pressure-prompted individuals and early starters often are equally distributed within a workforce. It's important to identify who is who in order to construct workarounds that will enable these employees to work effectively together.
2. Understand impact.
It's critical to understand the impact of one's work style on co-workers; it's also critical to understand that style, not personality, causes conflict. This insight often provides motivation to find a solution.
3. Focus on a common goal.
Opposing leaders can create an open, trusting dialogue about their different approaches when they need to meet the same goal.
4. Establish shared metrics.
Regardless of work style, defining shared metrics can help leaders commit to them, much like setting a common goal.
5. Find middle ground.
Individuals can't change their work styles, nor can they change a co-worker's style. But they need to realize that if they aren't supporting their co-workers, anxiety levels may rise.
When employees with different styles learn how to work together, the end results are often better than singular efforts. For example, pressure-prompted individuals usually are great in emergency situations or when something changes; they can marshal resources quickly and perform well under pressure. Alternatively, early starters can provide great structure and a clear road map for a project, which helps teams better manage their time. By harnessing both styles, companies can leverage a joint methodology that will lead to better business execution.
[About the Author: Bobbie Little is the director of worldwide executive coaching services for PDI Ninth House.]