The fact that everyone is different is something people in western cultures learn to value while still in their childhood. It is also regarded as a source of the lucrative diversity at the workplace. Individual differences allow people to enjoy the company of different people, learn different perspectives on common matters, and to diversify and widen our horizons, which is essential for productive teamwork. However, personal differences may also become a source of interpersonal conflict and misunderstanding that interferes with work. Considering the potential benefits of having different personalities on the same team, it is important for organization’s management to take steps to make all employees aware and considerate of personality differences among teammates to promote a healthy working environment and stronger relationships.
Personality characterizes a unique set of one’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional models that determine how one communicates with others, reacts to information, approaches work, etc. Everyone has a unique personality, and thus, introduces something special to a working team by offering a different perspective on certain matters, seeing something from a different angle, or taking a different approach to completing a task. Personal differences on a team create an edge that allows for the team as a whole to see more options and to take advantage of different strengths of the team members. Further, working together with differing personality types enriches each individual by offering an opportunity to consider points of view and approaches different from their usual ones.
While different personalities in the workplace may offer many advantages, it is also associated with numerous disadvantages that drag team’s performance down or interfere with individual team members’ satisfaction from work. These downsides to working with different personalities come from differences in communication styles, priorities, values, and contexts that get in the way of mutual understanding an effective communication. Hence, some people may end up being hurt by what is considered perfectly normal of the other just as some team members may place emphasis on something they colleagues consider irrelevant. In such cases, possible benefits of diversity at work turn into obstacles that drag team behind and interfere with work. Taking into account that one’s personality stays relatively stable throughout life, being in the situation where personality differences cause constant conflict and misunderstanding may seem hopeless. Yet, there is a way to enjoy all the advantages of diverse teams while also avoiding the pitfalls associated with it.
Preventing the difficulties that come with having different personalities on the team is possible by raising awareness of the existing differences and encouraging everyone to be considerate of unique personality and context one’s colleagues are in. Making an effort to find out more about how do one’s co-workers react to new information, approach task, handle challenges, as well as to learn more about their lives outside of work and their preferences for working conditions followed by an effort to adjust one’s behavior and communication to these individual peculiarities may go a long way. Namely, such approach helps to avoid conflicts and misunderstanding while also building stronger relationships with employees and creating an opportunity for the team to recognize and appreciate different perspectives.
Drawing conclusions, personality refers to the unique way everyone thinks, behaves, experiences, and reacts to events from the outer world. Personality differences at the workplace may offer real advantages in terms of available options, perspectives, and strong sides the team can rely on. At the same time, working with different personalities may be a source of conflict and misunderstanding. Preventing these drawbacks while also enjoying the benefits of the diverse workplace is possible by raising awareness of individual differences, learning about each other’s preferences, and making an effort to treat one’s colleagues in ways that would make them feel uncomfortable.
- Stephens, S. (2017). Workplace Culture: Personality Plus or Minus? How to Succeed When ‘Everybody’s Different’. Biomedical Instrumentation & Technology, 51(2), 135-138.