This restaurant sign humorously points to the fact that people are different. While there are general personality types, no two people are wired exactly the same. In short, people are different. As an old teacher of mine once said, “it would therefore behoove us” to figure out our own human nature.
I’m willing to bet that someone in your office drives you up the wall. In truth, most of our co-workers bother us in some fashion. Guess what? You drive them up the wall too. Most conflict in the workplace doesn’t happen over issues of right and wrong, but rather over differences in personality.
(Let me stipulate a couple of things. This blog is not about the office narcissist or job performance. I’m not addressing job performance or personality disorders here. I’m addressing general, run-of-the-mill personality differences.)
The office party animal who keeps things lively but tends to run late drives the office keeper of the rules batty. Most workplaces have that one person who wants to turn every thing into a party. They make you laugh and make life fun. These folks can also have a bit of “the rules don’t apply to me” running through their veins. And then there’s the person in the office who thinks every rule should be followed at all times. These workplace personalities lie at the foundation of most workplace conflict.
The office General Patton who is always large-and-in-charge and gets stuff done can sometimes run roughshod over the office peace-keeper. Likewise, the peace-keeper’s desire for peace can sometimes make it difficult to have a “tough conversation.”
Know Your Own Personality
To know your own personality is the starting point for navigating workplace conflict. Numerous on-line tests can give you anywhere from a quick sketch to a deep understanding of yourself. The better assessment tools not only increase self-awareness, but also provide tools in understanding people who are not like you.
On any given day, my co-workers and I perform this dance of driving each other crazy in little ways while working together to get important stuff done. Sometimes I have to listen to the office big-mouth who loves to talk, talk, talk. I have to deal with the office socialite who needs an hour to talk about personal problems. But my co-workers also have to put up with my moodiness when I want to close the door and not be bothered.
By understanding that we’re all weird in some ways, I can piece this wonderful bunch of brilliant people with strange traits, myself included, together for the greater good.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
The restroom sign at the restaurant provides a chuckle and an indirect hint that sometimes we need to laugh at our differences and not take things so serious. For example, I had a bad day earlier this week where some things at work ticked me off. Rather than fighting about it with co-workers, I slept on it. A day later it didn’t bother me anymore as I realized what ticked me off was more about personality differences than it was about somebody else doing something wrong.
Sometimes you just have to put up with an annoying co-worker, or family member. But let’s take a cue from the restaurant bathroom sign. Lots of restaurants provide good food but are boring. Always have an eating joint or two with something funny on the wall. It brightens your life.
Likewise, always have a friend or two who makes you laugh. Life is difficult, and sometimes we need the very people who drive us crazy to navigate through life’s turbulent waters.