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No matter how bright the smiles in your team photo, there’s probably someone you work with who rubs you the wrong way. It’s simple numbers, really — anytime you have more than one person in a space or organization, the potential for conflict is there.
But what do you do when the conflict is more than minor annoyance or frustration? When your fellow agent rubs you the wrong way so often and so completely that you tense up whenever you hear their voice?
A personality clash like this can make it difficult to be effective and can tempt you to say and do things you wouldn’t otherwise. It can make you less effective and drain your energy and enthusiasm, undermining your ability to do your job successfully.
Although sometimes we’re frustrated with a co-worker for real, concrete reasons, other times our frustration is harder to explain. Maybe they remind you of someone from your past. Maybe the two of you got off on the wrong foot when you first met. Maybe you’re too much alike or maybe you’re too different to see eye-to-eye.
According to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, a workplace conflict facilitator that works with a variety of professional organizations, workplace conflict is responsible for billions of dollars in lost productivity, not to mention increased turnover and an increase in the incidence of employment lawsuits. It keeps employees less engaged when they’re at work and more likely to leave for greener pastures.
So what can you do if you’re feeling the burn from an annoying teammate? Here are some do’s and don’ts to guide you to a more peaceful and productive work environment.
Do some self-reflection first
Before you go off on your annoying teammate, stop and look at yourself in the mirror.
- Were you nervous when you came on board? Maybe you weren’t very friendly at first.
- Have you frequently felt competitive with this particular agent? Maybe your healthy competition has gotten out of hand.
- Do the two of you have markedly different professional styles? Maybe you’ve turned that into personal disdain.
- Does the agent remind you of someone in your personal life you don’t like? Maybe you’ve let that color your attitude towards them.
- Are you going through personal struggles that are affecting your professional life? They may be making you more sensitive than usual.
Being self-aware and willing to admit that you play a role in your conflict is essential. By helping you to define the elements that you’re able to control and correct, you may be able to head off conflict with your teammate or co-worker by changing your reactions.
Do focus on behavior instead of personality
It’s easy to get petty and focus on the person when you’re in conflict: the way they talk, the way they look, the way they dress. However, by switching your focus to specific behaviors rather than general aspects of their personality, you may be able to offset the dislike you feel.
For example, if your teammate talks too loudly when you’re trying to get work done, the solution may be as simple as wearing headphones or moving your desk. If they’re bad at collaboration, avoid working on projects or committees with them.
Do make an attempt to connect with them
Sometimes, the person you dislike feels just as uncomfortable around you as you do around them. Make an effort to be cordial, even if it’s just saying “Hello” in the morning. You don’t have to become their best friend, but being pleasant can go a long way toward improving your relationship.
Empathy comes into play here; it can be good to try to put yourself in your teammate’s shoes. Are they new and trying to prove themselves? Are they older and worried about staying relevant? Are they a part-time agent trying to prove that they belong? Try to understand why they act the way they do so that you have some perspective.
Do set healthy boundaries
It’s hard for a teammate to change behavior that you’ve never told them about. If you don’t like chatting first thing in the morning, let them know. If you’re working on a deadline and don’t have time to help them, be upfront. You don’t have to be rude to set boundaries that are firm and appropriate.
Don’t share your thoughts with others
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to turn your personal dislike into part of the public discourse. Talking to others on your team about who you don’t like and why makes a personal issue into a major professional problem. While you may think that you’re letting everyone know what’s wrong with your teammate, you’re really showing them that you’re less than professional.
In addition, trashing another Realtor is a violation of Article 15 of the Code of Ethics if you question their professionalism and business practices. The best policy is to keep your thoughts to yourself unless you’re focusing on solutions with a coach or mentor.
Don’t feed your frustration
Often, our self-talk is every bit as culpable for fueling our anger and dislike as the actions of the other agent. When you keep churning on the supposed flaws of your teammate — and stewing on all of their annoying actions — you keep yourself stirred up more than the other person ever could.
Find ways to refocus so that you’re not making the situation worse. When you feel that negative self-talk beginning in regard to your teammate, train yourself to redirect your attention to something or someone else.
Do reach out to your leadership if needed
If your difficulties with a teammate go beyond simple frustration or personality conflict, know when it’s time to talk to someone else. Your manager or team leader may be able to intervene, if needed, or at the very least they may be able to create a bit of distance between the two of you.
If the problem is more serious than a simple personality conflict, they’ll also be able to help you determine what your options are and whether you need to report the teammate to the Board of Realtors.
Conflict is unpleasant, but it’s also a distraction. Avoid the temptation to spend your time fussing and fighting with other agents and turn your focus to your business instead.