How to Use Assessments to Identify and Avoid Workplace Conflict

Beth Miller |

Conflict happens and can be healthy. And as a leader, you need to manage conflict proactively.

On the flip side, not all conflict is good conflict, though. One effective way to avoid time-wasting arguments and tension at the workplace is to administer personality assessments with your team or department.

Employees will benefit from knowing more about themselves and about the people they work with. Even though some people question their effectiveness,  assessments are used by small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike.

Ask yourself this: Do the employees you lead understand the different behaviors and motivations that cause the people around them to act the way that they do? And if they did, would it decrease the risk of conflict?

Avoiding personality conflicts using Myers Briggs assessments

Some statistics show that 85 percent of dismissals in the U.S. are due to personality conflicts. Also, an average employee spends 2.1 hours a week dealing with conflict. It’s part of your responsibility as a leader to make sure that employees are as productive as possible.

To avoid disagreement, one assessment that can be used is the Myers Briggs (or MBTI), which is a personality inventory of normal personalities and how they fit together. Using this tool can help everyone understand others and themselves.

People are divided into “types” and the MBTI shows what behaviors are expected from each type. No type is better than the other—it’s not a test—but each type tends to have  behavioral preferences that will differ from other types.

To avoid conflict, it’s best to know your type and the types of those you work with. And, if you know your type alone, you can take steps to avoid misunderstandings.

The MBTI identifies personality traits, but it also shows us “conflict pairs” that have an impact on interpersonal dynamics and conflict triggers.

The four sets of dichotomies are Introversion – Extroversion, Sensing – Intuition, Thinking – Feeling, and Judging – Perceiving. Differences exist between each set of dichotomies, which can lead to conflict, but the greatest area of concern exists among the last two pairs—the “conflict pairs.” This idea comes from Damian Killen and Danica Murphy, after 30+ years of working with the MBTI.

People can exhibit both behaviors—thinking and feeling, and judging and perceiving—but when under stress, they are likely to react according to one or the other based on their preference.

Avoiding personality conflicts using DiSC style assessments

People’s preferred way of doing a job differ, and the DiSC assessment can help people understand their style. This tool focuses on behavior at work, while the MBTI covers work and life.

If you understand your natural approach to work and how your co-workers approach work, you can make conscious choices about how to modify your behavior and understand why someone behaves the way they do.

Some of the DiSC behavioral styles pose a potential conflict. For example, the high Dominance wants results and action now, which is in conflict with the high Compliance behavior of making sure things are done to perfection.

Avoiding conflicts using the Conflict Dynamics Profile

Another assessment worth mentioning is the Conflict Dynamics Profile, which deals with conflict behaviors in the workplace. It can give insight into what triggers conflict and how people respond to conflict.

At the heart of this tool is that inevitable, ineffective, and harmful responses to conflict can be avoided. Of course, conflict can’t and shouldn’t be avoided.

How have you successfully used assessments to avoid conflict in your workplace? And what techniques have you used other than assessment tools to avoid conflict?

Photo Credit: Flickr user Mr. Guy F. Wicke

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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