How to Manage a Team with Conflicting Personalities

Workplace conflict


The American Management Association once surveyed 250 executives and managers and found that they spend approximately 24 percent of their time dealing with conflicts. That’s a huge investment of time — which equals a huge amount of payroll dollars being wasted!

Let’s not forget the potential effects of conflict on retention and turnover. Poorly managed workplace conflicts can easily become personal, generating resentment, antagonism, and hostility. This causes rifts in work relationships, creates stress, polarizes teams and can be a leading factor in absenteeism and voluntary turnover.

So, how do you resolve conflict? By arming yourself with the necessary tools. Educate yourself about the genesis of conflict, commit yourself to managing it – it’s never easy! – and be willing to practice conflict resolution skills so they become a natural part of your communication strategies.

Conflict is caused by one or more of three factors:

1. People
2. Processes
3. Problems


1. Everyone on a team has a different personality, different talents, and experience, and brings something different to the table. They also have different approaches:

• Change vs. Tradition
• Vision vs. Practicality
• The Big Picture vs. the Details
• A Fast-pace vs. a Slower Pace
• Risk-taking vs. Caution
• Creativity vs. Structure
• Process Focus vs. Content Focus

Obviously, not everyone is going to be happy all the time, but employees with conflicting personalities can work together effectively when properly managed. Supervisors must manage behaviors rather than personalities and not allow personality differences to affect employees’ ability to work together as a productive team.


2. Process conflict results from the way decisions are made and how people feel about these methods and outcomes. Every employee likes to feel that their opinions are valuable and considered fairly, that they have a say in how projects are handled.


3. Problem-based conflict stems from specific differences between people. These may include a difference of values, perspectives, or any opposing views. Managers must develop a culture of communication and respect to ensure employees can work together effectively regardless of these differences, which should include a system for reporting and managing conflict. Proper clarification of expectations can also diminish this type of conflict.


Regardless of the cause of conflict, you can generate positive outcomes.

If you choose to handle conflict resolution yourself, you may find it helpful to perform personality assessments on the members of your team. Assessments such as the DiSC, which analyzes personality traits including dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness, are common methods used to help managers understand and manage personality differences. Other useful tools include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which rates employees on scales such as extraversion vs. introversion and thinking vs. feeling, and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which examines similar personality traits.

You may also want to take a conflict management program. Conflict management courses are designed to help participants understand the nature of conflict and provide them with skills to get better results from such situations in the shortest possible time. These skills usually include effective communicating, problem solving, negotiating, listening, and decision-making. Typically taught by business consultants and psychologists, conflict management training is available through in-house seminars and workshops in most cities.

However you handle the inevitable conflicts in your organization, by successfully managing them, you will see an improved bottom line from reduced turnover and absenteeism alone—not to mention stable working relationships, organizational loyalty, and the retained knowledge of experienced employees. Any significant improvement in conflict management will far outweigh the cost of most personality assessment testing or conflict management programs.


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