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Clash of the Titans: When personalities collide

Personality clashes in the workplace are often unavoidable, but when left unchecked they can cause considerable psychological stress and can lead to problems of anxiety and depression for those involved. Such clashes can also lead to the breakdown of working relations within a team or department and can damage the cohesiveness and productivity of an organisation as a whole.

There is increasing realisation that the success of any organisation is intrinsically linked to the health and wellbeing of its employees. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a total of 10.8 million days were lost in 2010-11 to stress, depression or anxiety - more than for any other reason.

Spotting the initial signs of conflict can sometimes be difficult. While some personality clashes will flare up into public confrontations and arguments, others may manifest themselves in more subtle ways, such as one employee withdrawing from their colleagues, or taking increasing amounts of time off sick. Other symptoms can include decreasing motivation, reduced social interaction or a drop in performance.

Understanding the root cause of any personality clash can be first step towards resolving it. Many different factors can underpin such clashes - for example, differences in how two employees approach certain tasks, particularly if one depends on the other in their work role. Gender and background differences can also cause friction, as can differing approaches to leadership, appraisal and team management.

Managers can play a vital role in spotting problematic personality clashes early on, addressing the underlying issues and resolving them. Acas has produced guidance for employers on managing conflict at work and offers comprehensive training for managers in all aspects of conflict management.

Visit the Acas training and business solutions section for more information.

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