How to solve personality conflicts at work

Take responsibility. Ask, listen, and ask again until you understand.

Teddy Zetterlund
Dec 11, 2016 · 2 min read

“Most personality conflicts at work arise from the fact that people do not know what other people are doing and how they do their work, or what contribution the other people are concentrating on and what results they expect. And the reason they do not know is that they have not asked and therefore not been told.” — Peter Drucker

In Managing Oneself, Peter Drucker argues that it’s each persons duty to take responsibility for relationships at work — and that it has two parts.

“The first is to accept the fact that other people are as much individuals as you yourself are.” — Peter Drucker

“That sounds obvious,” he adds. And, indeed, it does sound obvious but our brain is so annoyingly focused on ourselves that we might as well need the reminder; again, and again, and again.

So here’s my reminder to you, if you feel that you have a conflict with a person at work. First, defuse the situation by setting your mind to the fact that almost everyone does their best (given the circumstances) and wants to help. It really is our default mode. Then, when you’re ready, talk to this person—and ask your questions, be curious, and dive in deep.

Most likely, you’ve had it all wrong anyways—as we usually are with the stories we tell ourselves about others.

And some more to consider:

Manners are the lubricating oil of an organisation. It is a law of nature that two moving bodies in contact with each other create friction. This is as true for human beings as it is for inanimate objects. Manners — simple things like saying “please” and “thank you” and knowing a person’s name or asking after her family — enable two people to work together whether they like each other or not. — Peter Drucker

Do your part for respect, trust and courtesy at work. The results are worth it.

Oh, and the second part of relationship responsibility, according to Peter Drucker, is taking responsibility for communication.

Teddy Zetterlund

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I support companies in improving their product development capabilities; and reduce the gap between the potential value possible and the actual value realized.

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