Dealing with Difficult Personalities at Work

  • How do I deal with personality conflicts at work?

    OKLAHOMA CITY - November 04, 2019

    Look around your workplace. Your co-workers probably vary in age, all the way from 20 to 75, right? Well, that's 11-4-2019-Generations because there are now five generations working alongside one other, and that means it can be difficult to understand each other-we all have differing motives, expectations, and communication styles. Each generation grew up in a unique era which ultimately defines how and why they act the way they do. 

    You have people who saw the invention of the microwave oven, the shopping cart, and the ATM working alongside those who find it totally natural to ask Siri, Hey Google, and Alexa to secure their home, shuffle their playlist, and make sure their lunch is delivered by noon. 

    And while this doesn't mean we can't appreciate the age in which our co-workers grew up, there are obvious differences that can make sustaining a symbiotic workplace difficult. So here are a few tips on how to deal with unique co-worker personalities.

    Traditionalists: Pre 1946

    Major life events that formed the Traditionalist generation were The Great Depression, World War II, the affordable mass-produced Ford Model T, and the Supreme Court ruling that segregation in schools was unconstitutional in Brown vs. Board of Education.

    In a workplace setting, Traditionalists are known to be loyal to the company, good team players, less likely to initiate conflict, and change-resistant. They value stability, safety, security, consistency, and commitment. When working with a Traditionalist, set clear expectations, be fair and consistent, provide flexible work arrangements, and be personable toward them.

    Baby Boomers: 1946 - 1964

    Major life events that formed the Baby Boomer generation were the Kennedy assassination, sending the first man, Neil Armstrong, to the moon, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and Woodstock.

    In a workplace setting, Baby Boomers value a strong work ethic-they are self-assured, competitive, goal-oriented, resourceful, team players, and disciplined. To show a Baby Boomer they are valued, ask for their advice and take notes to show you're listening. Make sure to acknowledge their experience. Baby Boomers have a tendency to put process ahead of results and are not naturally "budget minded."

    Generation X: 1965 - 1978

    Notable life events that influenced Generation X are the Challenger explosion, the Oklahoma City bombing, the DotCom bubble burst, the Berlin Wall demolition, and the latchkey kid phenomenon.

    At the office, Xers are independent, problem solvers, creative, adaptable, big picture thinkers, prefer a work/life balance, and are more informal than their generational predecessors. When working with a Gen Xer, remember that they work to live, not live to work. They expect high-quality results not only from themselves, but also their teammates. When working with this generation be prepared to deal with their cynicism and lack of patience.

    Millennials: 1979 - 1995

    Defining moments for the largest working generation are the Columbine shootings, the dawn of WWW, the September 11 attacks, the birth of Facebook, the invention of the smartphone, and The Great Recession.

    When working with a Millennial, expect a co-worker who is social, tolerant, efficient, flexible, balanced, and prefers to work for a cause or a company they care about and believe in, rather than bring home a big paycheck. Millennials like growth opportunities and prefer a flexible work schedule and non-traditional work spaces. When your organization implements new technology, Millennials will be among the first to adapt and adopt. Potential challenges when working with Millennials is their need for supervision and structure and they may struggle handling difficult people and issues. 

    Generation Z: 1996 - Present

    Moments that defined Generation Z are the Anthrax attacks, Barak Obama sworn in as the first African-American president, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and major natural disasters that have heightened emergency response and preparedness. And they have never known life without the internet.

    On the job, Generation Z prefers a dynamic and fast-paced work environment. They are visually oriented, and can multitask across five screens on average. They are a mobile first and mobile only generation, so if your organization's website is not mobile friendly, don't expect a Gen Z to apply there. This generation is considered the ultimate consumers of "snack media," meaning they are masters at absorbing large amounts of bite-sized content. Try quick stand-up meetings over traditional team meetings to keep them motivated.

    No matter which generation you are working with, it's best to consider what makes them tick before jumping into a group project. Keep the lines of communication open with your co-workers and try to set clear expectations when possible. No matter the generational differences, you can never go wrong by displaying professionalism and transparency.