When Personalities Collide
Friendship and liking one another at work are important to many people. So important, in fact, that some will take or leave jobs on the basis of the other people who work there. You probably know who these people are in your workplace, and as a manager you have likely been called upon to mediate their problems with coworkers. These employees need to get along with their coworkers; it's as much a part of their personalities as of their work styles. There's nothing wrong with this, as long as it meets their needs (and doesn't interfere with productivity, theirs or yours).
You can work with people you don't particularly like and still be happy in your job. It's unrealistic to expect you'll like everyone in the group. The more friends and interests you have outside work, the easier it is to work with people you don't consider to be your friends.
Whether employees like each other or not, it's still important for them to be able to work together or to share a project. This can be a challenge (which could be the understatement of the year!). The most effective way for a manager to bring people together in collaboration and cooperation is to stay focused on the job and its tasks — what the job requires and how well the employees do or don't complete those tasks. This helps them — and you — tolerate differences in personality. Employees expect managers to “protect” them, to watch out for their interests and to be involved enough to understand the personalities in the group and put protections in place to assure that equality is maintained. When this doesn't happen, employees grow resentful and frustrated. Morale slides, taking productivity with it. Sometimes the issues that drive employees away seem minor, yet they reflect an underlying problem with trust and betrayal.
Putting people on project teams to force them to cooperate can back-fire. Don't jeopardize other team relationships and the integrity of the project by trying to engineer the impossible.
Many managers do not want to involve themselves in issues such as these because they are uncomfortable with feelings and emotions and don't like conflict. But failing to become involved can cause tension that disrupts teamwork and productivity. Employees feel their managers don't respect them when they fail to look out for their interests (it's that parent hat again). You can be proactive, and avoid conflict, by building in a structure that helps employees work together.