Team Dynamics

Working as a Team with Conflicting Personalities

Personalities are part of what makes each of us an individual, defining how we generally process events and how we react to that information. Personalities might be similar, and a behavior that we've seen somewhere before can make it easy to jump to conclusions -- bad or good. It's always important to remember that individual personalities vary and that judging and pigeonholing someone is a sure way to either grow to disdain them or be disdained yourself.

As social animals, we come up against people we love, hate and feel ambivalent towards every day and in every situation. While it's obviously easier and feels better to surround yourself by people that you enjoy being around it's not always possible. In a work environment, it's rarely possible, so it's important to have a toolkit on how to handle people that you just don't care to be around so you don't lose productivity, the respect of your colleagues (or managers) or just your cool.

When you're stuck with that person who just drives your crazy, remind yourself of the temporariness of the situation and examine it for what truly gets under your skin. Is it a specific thing you can politely, subtly, non-passive aggressively communicate to your colleague? Are they very loud when you prefer a quieter atmosphere? Are they prone to saying things that make you feel uncomfortable? Do they shirk duties or prefer a different work schedule?

Barring a situation of abusiveness or harassment, the best first step you can take is to breath and analyze what's happening. If it stopped, would you feel better? Is it something you feel comfortable mentioning? If the answer is yes to both of those things, than say something.

Before you say something, again take a breath and consider your resources in your team or environment. Is there someone you know who won't judge you or might have insight that could help? If you feel that they can be in your confidence, then ask to set up a time to talk. Get their input, make a plan, feel confident in yourself and your next steps.

If the stars align and you think talking would help, ask the person you don't along with to meet up for coffee or have a quick 15 minute meeting as soon as they are able. Don't write it out, don't do it in front of people -- set a time to talk where no one feels defensive and if possible, there's an impartial third party who can help diffuse any tension.

If the stars don't align and you don't feel comfortable or that it would be productive to say anything, the most important thing to remember is to control what you can control. You won't always like what happens, but if you focus on what you can do and what you want to do things can become clearer and less stressful.

No matter what, remember communication is better than bottling your feelings and experiences -- but if communication can hurt you or your life, your happiness or your career, protect yourself before you do anything. Never put yourself in danger because someone else is unpleasant. Instead, document what happens and reach out to resources and your support network for advice.

Negativity as Tactic

Negativity is something that most people say they don't like. Negativity is also incredibly common. Why? 

Well, being negative is easy. Being negative means that you simply say no to what everyone else is working towards and proposing without adding anything to the equation. Being negative and focusing on the fearful is the quickest way to place yourself in the limelight without actually having substance behind your voice.

Everyone wants to sound like the smartest person in the room, from politicians running for the Presidency to your coworker whose gunning for that promotion. Behaving negatively means that one can sound smart and cautious when other ask people to look to the future and build. This is incredibly common in group settings and it's something a true leader and forward thinker avoids.

Where others focus on the downside, it's your job to build the upside and create positive alternatives and futures to whatever dilemma you and your comrades are facing.   

If you're working on a project and a team member seems to only ever list catastrophic problems that could potentially maybe one day possibly happen, take a step back before getting annoyed. Remember that this team member might have a few good, constructive points hidden in the negativity and you can find them by asking probing questions. Pull away the hysteria by asking them to quanitfy and specify their predictions of doom. Soon you'll find that what was impossible a few moments earlier was actually a comment on a weaker aspect of the project you're building together.

Doom and gloom is easy, constructive criticism and vision are hard. Be your best self and lead your colleagues away from negative excuses to positive events.