Project Management

Understanding Personality Clashes

From the An Influential Project Manager Blog
Today, more than ever, a project manager needs to be an influencer. The purpose of this blog is to stimulate your journey towards greater influence. With influence, you can overcome the roadblocks thrown in your way, overcome opposition, align stakeholders and, enjoy your role even more. However, since I know you are busy, the posts here will be short (about a minute), thought provoking and also drive you towards action. Feel free to connect with me, ask me questions, and share what's good here.

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When a personality clash occurs, life can get very difficult, very quickly. 

The sooner you recognise it for what it is, the easier it will be to fix.

There are four key elements to consider in these situations - content, behaviour, tension and emotion.

Most clashes begin with a disagreement on content and escalate due to differences in behaviour people use to gain agreement. As these differences become entrenched, the tension rises, as do the emotional reactions. Which means, things continue to get worse until an interrupt takes place.

What I find fascinating is that if two people use similar behaviours to try to remedy the disagreement on content, they naturally move towards problem-solving. The clash begins when people just don’t like or agree with the way the other person is handling it.

The key to fixing a personality clash is to find a way that both sides can comfortably adopt similar behaviours as they seek a resolution OR both sides accept and tolerate the differences in behaviours.

Which means, if you are facing a personality clash, you can take constructive action to adjust your behaviour, and your levels of tolerance of the other persons way of behaving.

In a later post I will share some ideas on practical action you can take if you are affected by this problem. Meantime, take a look at the OnDemand webinar (PMI Members only) which goes into a lot of detail on behavioural differences.

More on this Topic

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Posted on: August 16, 2019 06:59 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Like that, I think the worst is when emotion takes over everything else. Then it is very difficult for anybody else to try to help in the resolution.
Thanks, Colin really like your posts.

Simplistic and timely post thank you Colin!
For me easy fix to deal with immature behaviour is to trigger the wrong buttons on the person one’s having ‘tension’ with but the rule is to follow by hasty apologies on the spot, it worked!

Level of tolerance is the game changer!
Good thoughts.

@Colin, thank you for this blog.
Cultural context in which the incident happen, and the cultural background of the ones involved usually play a big role in this type of situations.
Thank you for bringing forward this topic.

@Lily, such an important point, because there is always a cultural dimension. I remember one workshop delegate saying that in his country, whenever a clash happened there was always lots of shouting, and shoe throwing. Which very quickly passed and everyone was smiling again, and looking for their shoes!

And as @Vincent points out, the trouble beds in when the emotions take over. I like to think of it this way...

When something happens, you will always have an emotional reaction to it, no matter how slight (and I know there are come very cool/calm PMs out there!). Resist the urge to react with that emotion. Instead, try to put it to one side to allow space for clear analysis of the situation, and decision making about what to do next. And what next, may well involve bringing the emotions back into play, but now in a considered and controlled manner.

Hope that helps.

interesting, thanks

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