Can’t We All Just Get Along?

conflict resolution

Letting go of and moving forward is key to maintaining professional relationships, but is easier said than done. Most of us have been in situations where we were underappreciated, on the receiving end of less-than-constructive criticism, or outright bullied at work (if you haven’t been there yet, consider yourself lucky). Just because you’re stuck with an uncooperative coworker doesn’t mean the situation can’t be diffused. Before you launch into full-on battle mode here are some ways to apply logic.


It takes two people to create a personality conflict. Refuse to engage and the conflict will only exist on one-side. Will you still have to work with an unpleasant person? Yes, but gaining some perspective on the motivation behind a difficult coworker’s behavior and changing your reaction to it can make all the difference in the world.

Don’t fight fire with fire. Sure, working with someone who you perceive as “out to get you” is far from fun. It’s not productive for you or your team (or the company). But if you meet a bully’s behavior with the same, you will be perceived as an active participant and it will escalate the situation. Walk away. Breathe. Count to 10. Count to 100. Do your job well and disengage as much as you are able.

Don’t be passive-aggressive. Conflict at work is best met head-on. Don’t waste time gossiping or complaining to others; negativity has a way of infesting all areas of our lives. Focus on the positive and productive steps you can take to resolve the problems. This doesn’t mean you have to be confrontational or combative. Sometimes an honest conversation with your difficult peer can solve the issue. Emphasize you are both on the same team and want the company or project to succeed regardless of your differences in opinion.

Resolve it like an adult. Being able to resolve a personality conflict can win you big points when it’s performance review time. While you may not understand why a bully has been allowed to remain, but odds are you’re not the only one aware of their behavior.

If all else fails, escalate. Approach your supervisor or boss confidently and armed with facts that won’t make you seem like a tattletale or complainer. If your peer’s behavior impacts your productivity, document it. Keep emails and take detailed and dated notes on all other written communication whenever possible. When discussing the issue with your supervisor stick to the facts, don’t get emotional or make it personal.


You may never understand the motivation behind what causes this behavior, but you can control your reaction and how you handle the situation—especially in your boss’s eyes. Resolving the issue without escalation is ideal, but once you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, managing the issue professionally is better than letting a conflict drag on endlessly.


Here are a few more resources for handling personality conflicts in the workplace.

About the author

Kelly Love Johnson

Kelly Love Johnson is Content Strategist for Jobs2Careers. She's also a shower singer, TV watcher, pop culture junkie, and habitual smirker. She's passionate about helping people find their dream jobs and closing the wage gap. Her book, Skirt! Rules for the Workplace: An Irreverent Guide to Advancing Your Career, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2008.

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