| September 22, 2020

Handling personality clashes at work

Gopal Sigdel, Pradip Khatiwada, Pramod Sigdel, Seema Karki and Suvekchya Rajak (From left to right) Gopal Sigdel, Pradip Khatiwada, Pramod Sigdel, Seema Karki and Suvekchya Rajak (From left to right)

KATHMANDU, May 17: When we work closely with people for eight hours every day for six days a week, it is certain that we will have problems with someone or another. It is the differences in personalities that lead to clashes among coworkers. When problems creep up, it becomes difficult to work in harmony with the colleague and it can even affect our work.

We asked a few job holders how they would handle such a situation and here's what they had to say.

Pramod Sigdel, 23
Teacher, New Millennium School

My personality is such that I have always made sure to get on well with my colleagues. In the case that I start having problems with one of them, the first thing I'd do is look within me to see whether I really am the problem. I would try to stop whatever it is I was doing to annoy my colleague. But if I'm sure that the problem is not from my side then I would just ignore it. I'd rather avoid confronting them and creating a bigger issue.

Gopal Sigdel, 40
Project Director, Department of Road

My way of handling such a problem would be to sit down for a talk to clear the air. Each party should be given the platform to air their grievances and then work something out. I believe we can always find a solution to every problem. There's no need to involve supervisors in the problem, especially if it is our differences in personalities that is creating this difficulty.

Seema Karki, 23

I've never had unpleasant experiences with my colleagues. But if such a situation arose in the future, I would talk with them and try to arrive at a satisfactory explanation for both parties. It's worth a try to have a discussion with the colleague first. Then if gets bigger instead of working out, I would go to my supervisor with the problem.

Pradip Khatiwada, 24
National Coordinator,
National Volunteering Program

Personality clashes between coworkers happen quite often. It's important to understand what makes the other person tick before reacting. I make it a point to divert the conversation away from a touchy subject if I know that the other person is easily offended or is short-tempered. I can get back to the topic later when the situation is more favorable. I'm open to debates or talking about differences in opinions only if I'm sure that my colleague won't take it in a negative way.

Suvekchya Rajak, 21
Communication Officer,
Child Bright Future Nepal

It's very important to focus on the work to be done. I have had to go through many unpleasant situations with my colleagues and so I've learnt how to handle it. Proper communication and work coordination are keys to deal with this kind of situation. Sometimes, I have problems with my seniors which I handle by doing my best to cooperate with them professionally. It's more uncomfortable when the colleagues are of my own age group. It's best to remind everyone that we are here to work and to focus on that.

Here's how to avoid personality conflicts in the workplace


You have to understand that simply because you are having a personality clash with someone doesn't mean you are right and they are wrong. Accept the fact that people have different perspectives and everyone has the right to uphold their opinion. If you're kind and understanding enough to accept this fact, personality differences can actually strengthen a team by contributing different ideas and solutions. Think of ways to deal with them only when the conflict actually has reached a point where they interfere with your ability to work.

Avoid discussing this with colleagues

As tempting as it might be to share the troubles you're having dealing with the person at work, it's best to avoid discussing it with other colleagues. Many people try to make allies among their coworkers in order to deal with the personality conflict they have with a certain person at work, but instead of helping you resolve the issue, this will only aggravate the situation. Personality conflict is solely your issue and involving other people in it will only make things awkward. This also hampers the work environment. Instead, start focusing how what you can do to deal with the situation without having to involve others.

Withhold your response

The person you're having a clash of character with most probably knows how to push your buttons and irk you, especially if you've been working together for a long time. By stopping yourself from responding immediately, you give yourself some time to think through your response and this will make the other person think you're backing down. This will, over the time, discourage them to bother you again.

Maintain professionalism

Always keep in mind that you're part of professional organization and you've to maintain your professional integrity while dealing with things at work. Even though you have personality conflict with a colleague, be calm and courteous to him/her. This will largely help avoid confrontations. Be mindful of your tone—avoid hostility when you speak in person, via email, or over the phone. It is not necessary for all coworkers to like each other to carry out team work effectively. Just make sure you never take the differences personally.

Find the source

Try to find out the real issue that's causing personality conflict between you. Whether it's just a difference of opinion or there's some other underlying problem, it's a good idea to talk to them directly and sort things out. Again, be calm when communicating with them and encourage them to be part of the solution. If things don't go smoothly and you feel you're losing the control of the situation, exit gracefully without letting things escalate.

Focus on the other person's strengths

While this is difficult to do, try looking at the other person's positive attributes. Learn to appreciate the contributions they make to the team and the company as a whole. Focusing on the positive will help you to get into a neutral space and look at things more objectively.

Talk to the management

After you've tried everything to deal with the conflict yourself and still can't find a solution and it continues to affect your work, it's best to take it to the management. An effective mediation by your supervisor or any authoritative third-party can defuse the conflict. If the mediation doesn't help, either, the management can put the two of you in separate teams. In extreme cases, they might even relocate or transfer one of you to eliminate contact.