Every leader deals with conflict during their career. The intensity of the conflicts will vary yet each one of them can cause decreased productivity in the very best of situations and in the worst, workplace violence.
I have worked with many leaders and teams that have had to manage through conflict and one of the leading indicators that trouble may be brewing is opposing personalities. The two most common dichotomies that can create conflict are the introvert and extrovert, and the detail versus big picture thinker. As a leader, if you work with the individuals on a consistent basis, you may be able to determine by their communications and decision making what their behavior preferences are.
Introverts will generally talk less, which makes them better listeners and they often like to work individually because they get their energy internally. On the other hand, extroverts enjoy working with others and expressing themselves, often thinking out loud. They get their energy from being with others. Big picture thinkers like to talk about the future and what "could be", they often rely on their intuition and not hard facts. Detail oriented people need the details and hard facts, and they rely on historical information when making decisions.
Now if you have just inherited a new team or department, or just joined a new team you may not have past experience to help you decipher the various personalities on your team. And in this case, you may want to use a personality and/or thinking style assessment with team members to help you uncover conflicting personalities that may increase the risk of future workplace conflict. Some assessments I have found to be beneficial have been the Myers Briggs (MBTI) or Business DNA.
The key is: don't wait for conflict to happen. Take an inventory of your team members and look for the outliers, those who take a preference to an extreme. The outliers are often the ones who will be the underlying factor for conflict. And if you identify them and manage their extreme preferences, your chances of avoiding conflict will increase.
For instance, there are extroverts who will talk over others and not let others be heard. An introvert will at some point become frustrated and disengage. The team then misses the input of a team member who may be an integral component to their success. As a leader give the introvert plenty of opportunity to participate and share, and manage and/or coach the extrovert's urge to talk.
Or you may have an extremely detailed person who never has enough information and is holding the rest of the team back from making a decision. And on the opposite end of the spectrum is your big picture person who believes details just get in the way. This is your time to develop these employees by coaching them to places of less extreme when they are working together. Unlike the introvert and extrovert you are now working with thinking preferences which influence decision-making.
By following the three-step process of:
- Understanding the different personalities within a group or team,
- Identifying those employees that are more extreme and,
- Proactively coaching the outliers
You can avoid future workplace conflicts. Don't wait for conflict to derail productivity.