The workplace is a diverse and challenging space, and more so if you are working internationally. In the last 20 years, the ability to exist online has meant that companies must increasingly operate on a global scale, regardless of their relative size. As companies become more global, many of us now work as part of teams with many nationalities, backgrounds and ages. EF Academy alumni are more than used to this level of cultural interaction, but offices can pose a very different set of challenges compared to school.
Challenge 1: Different working methods
One of the biggest challenges in working environments one must face are working methods that differ so much from one’s own. Often these clashes can affect productivity and cause projects to stall, if not dealt with properly. These issues mainly arise as a result of not being able to understand why a colleague works the way that they do, and, therefore, struggling to see how it can be an effective way of working.
For example, the way that different people work towards a deadline can vary significantly. Some work towards regular small deadlines, while others will bring everything together in time for the final deadline. Both individuals will reach the deadline, just with quite different paths taken along the way.
Instead of trying to understand why a colleague works the way that they do, we should aim to accept that they do work in this way and look for ways to collaborate. Often, there can be very simple workarounds that allow for productive collaboration. The best place to start is with an honest conversation to discuss your differences, taking care to not attack their methods but simply work towards a solution.
Challenge 2: Diverse personalities
There can be many reasons for clashing with someone at work. Often professional clashes can be caused by differing personalities and views. An unfortunate reality is that you will at some point work with people with whom you do not connect with on a social level. In a professional environment these people cannot be avoided, and it can disrupt our working lives.
The solution to this issue is two-fold. The first part can be the hardest, and it is simply acceptance. We must accept that there are people out there who we will not be friends with, but with whom we have to remain professional in order to work effectively as a team. The second part is also tough but can also be an interesting exercise. Think about yourself and assess how you present yourself in a working environment. It may well be that one or more of your colleagues feels a similar way about you. As pessimistic as this sounds, it is important to understand that you can’t be friends with everyone, and that maintaining a strong professional persona is the key to an effective working environment.
Challenge 3: Making mistakes
In any workplace it is unlikely that everything will go to plan all the time. Clashes between colleagues can happen in the moments when things go wrong, as some may seek to assign blame. Instead of approaching situations in such a way, a more pragmatic approach is more effective. Short-term we should aim to solve the issue at hand and, long-term, aim to ensure that such issues do not arise again.
Obviously, the solution to preventing these issues in the future is not blaming your colleagues. Instead, you should first recognize your strengths and weaknesses in the workplace and which of your colleagues can help you with your weaknesses. Be careful not to put yourself in a box with an oversimplified definition, but instead look at the way you work and how you like things to be done. The next step is to consider your colleagues in a similar way to see how they can support you, and how you can do the same for them. It is very important to be sensitive in these situations, as others may not be quite so aware of what you might perceive to be one of their weaknesses. Aim to accommodate others and reach a middle ground, so you can catch any future mistakes in good time.
So, how do we bring this all together? Essentially, whenever you feel that you are clashing with someone at work, there are three factors to consider:
How do their methods vary from your own?
Is their personality compatible with yours?
Has a shared project had any setbacks?
When you take these into account and consider how they affect the other person, it is easier to understand your colleagues and the way that they work. Discuss how you can adapt to each other to help things move more easily and work together to improve your working lives. The most important thing is to never allow these situations to make you angry. Often, it simply isn’t worth it.