Personality Conflicts at Work

Solutions for Everyday Conflict from Linda Gryczan, Mediation Works

A better approach

I am often called to mediate a workplace “personality conflict”—shorthand for two or more people do not get along.

Their personalities are fine, but they likely have vastly different communication styles, leading to miscommunication, lack of understanding, and feelings of disrespect. Some, quickly get to the point, while others think out loud. A few are chatty and others reserved. We can be brusque or accommodating, straightforward or indirect.

Cartoon image of workplace personality conflict

There is nothing right or wrong about any of these communication styles, but the differences can lead to misunderstandings. We add our own interpretation to a coworker’s way of speaking, then act as though that assessment is true. “She did that to irritate me!” “He must think I am an idiot.”

It is helpful for coworkers who communicate differently to have a plan to handle inevitable misinterpretations.

First, check it out. “When you said X, what did you mean?”

Second, understand your differences. Someone who speaks directly needs less chit chat. They are not being rude, just trying to get things done. Their coworker may have a more roundabout way of speaking that won’t readily change. Have some patience and wait until they are finished.

Third, make a plan for how to handle the natural tension from different communication styles. Exploring assumptions often stops conflict in its tracks. “Oh, I thought you meant something completely different!” How will you ask for clarification when someone rubs you the wrong way?

The best workplaces include people with many different ways of being in the world. When coworkers respect these differences and plan how to handle misunderstandings, diversity becomes a strength.   

Linda Gryczan (rhymes with bison) has helped people resolve conflict since 2007. Read more Solutions to Everyday Conflict here. Contact her to help resolve your conflict at


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