According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, some financial firms are experiencing high levels of workplace conflict now that more advisers are working in teams.
To cope with that discord, one company, Wells Fargo, recruited Tim Ursiny, Ph.D., a business psychologist and the founder of Advantage Coaching, to help employees deal with negativity.
Ursiny tells Business Insider that conflict among business teams often stems from personality differences.
He says there are two basic personality continuums: impulsive/outspoken vs. methodical/reserved, and sceptical/questioning vs. warm/accepting.
People tend to fall in the following categories:
- Dominant: Those who are impulsive and sceptical. They tend to be very direct and prefer immediate results.
- Conscientious: Those who are methodical and sceptical. They are typically detail-oriented and highly analytical.
- Influential: Those who are impulsive and warm. They enjoy group work and generate enthusiasm for projects.
- Steady: Those who are methodical and warm. They are patient and seek harmony in their work environments.
Here’s an illustration adapted from materials by John Wiley & Sons:
According to Ursiny, conflict typically occurs between opposite personality types. That means
dominant and steady personalities clash, and conscientious and influential personalities clash.
Dominant and steady personalities often butt heads because dominant people tend to be overtly aggressive, while steady people are more passive aggressive. And while dominant personalities may seem intimidating or impatient, steady personalities may seem indecisive and hesitant to enact change.
Conscientious and influential people are often at odds because conscientious types may be perceived as overly perfectionistic or concerned with the rules. On the other hand, influential people may seem like they aren’t attentive enough to details.
Ursiny adds that dominant people tend to experience more conflicts than other personality types, largely because they’re more assertive.
When he’s dealing with a business team, Ursiny says he typically asks all employees to complete a personality test. Later, he’ll ask everyone to recall a recent conflict with a coworker. “Eighty per cent of the time, it’s with the opposite personality,” he says.
For many employees, understanding the different personality types can be enlightening.
“It’s like the ‘aha’ moment,” Ursiny says, noting that some people might say about their coworkers, “I always thought you were just slow!”
Once you’ve pinpointed your personality type, you can tweak the way you express yourself at work to minimise the chances of conflict.
For example, dominant personalities can try being more patient and asking more questions, while steady personalities can work on becoming more assertive. Similarly, influential personalities can practice being better listeners and more organised, and conscientious personalities can be more flexible and encourage creativity in others.
Most importantly, Ursiny emphasises that people with different personality types simply “see the world differently. There’s no right or wrong.”