4 ways to overcome differences in the workplace
Generally It is about mutual respect of differences.
Although some workplace ‘conflict’ is positive, for example, the competition between teams and team members to reach specific goals or targets, however, negative conflict, like bullying, victimization, and serious personality clashes, can be completely destructive, causing harm to people and relationships and the undermining of teamwork in general.
The first step to resolving workplace conflict is to determine the actual nature of the conflict at hand and what the underlying cause may be, and that will allow it to be addressed correctly.
Task/Role-based conflict and differences arise when people are reliant on others to get their jobs done, for example, the Sales Team Leader might need the month-end sales reports from their team in order to submit an overview to Management. Some team members are late with their reports and that in turn puts pressure on the Team Leader to deliver on a deadline. That undoubtedly causes some conflict and the onus is now on individuals to ensure they know what they are accountable and responsible for, clearly, from the start, to ensure working as a cohesive team. “As a leader, make sure your team knows what they are responsible for and how their role impacts a unit.”
Work-Style based differences come into play where people with the same roles have varying styles of getting their jobs done. Some people need to work independently and others need to be in a group/team, some may need to feel they are being supervised constantly, while others steer clear from being micromanaged and some are highly organized and others tend to plan their days as things happen. “The idea of mutual respect and understanding applies here in that we don’t all work in the same way – we’ll get to the same end result, but we need to learn to respect other peoples’ styles of working.”
Personality-based conflicts are going to happen in any organisation, and it is because of one simple thing – we are all different. We are not always going to like everyone we meet or get along with them, and it is extremely difficult working with someone who we just do not ‘gel with’ or enjoy being around. “This is when empathy and understanding comes into effect where we need to accept that we are not all the same and the person we work with may have a very different personality outside of the office.”
Favouritism may also be a source of huge differences in the workplace. Where there may be friendship relationships between managers and staff, there is bound to be some tension when things get overlooked in tasks, or not meeting deadlines becomes acceptable for some and not for others and where others are overlooked or ignored for example. “There has to be a clear practice of everyone being treated fairly and equally regardless of their connection to one another.”
Then there is the big one, Leadership-based conflict. Every leader has a vastly different leadership style from another, and everyone reacts and responds differently to those varying styles. Some leaders are authoritarian, using a sense of power or intimidation over their staff, where some are naturally charismatic and bold, and others may be just natural leaders who gain buy-in from others just by leading by example and encouraging idea sharing, collaboration and innovation. Some micromanage, and others leave you to get your job done without any strict rules or regulations about how you do it, as long as there are results.
In this instance, the onus is on the leaders to identify, within themselves, what sort of leadership style they have and how they interact with their staff of differing personalities. “These leaders need to be able to adjust their approaches and their styles to connect with their staff, regardless of their leadership preferences. It becomes about mutual respect of differences in general.”
Differences in the workplace can be resolved through active communication practices and the simple art of getting to know one another at work. Leaders need to ensure they know their teams and what matters to them and give them an environment formed around inclusion and a sense of belonging, while leading by example too. “Get to know your teams’ working styles and teamwork will be better overall. Encourage your staff to get to one another and accept their differences, so that the working environment becomes a happier place to be.”