Workplace collaboration

4 steps to bridging workplace differences

Use these steps to move past workplace differences and start connecting with co-workers.

The workplace is an environment where people of many different backgrounds must often work together toward a shared goal. And while it is extremely important to have diverse perspectives and ideas in the workplace, these differences can occasionally cause co-workers to bump heads. To help work through these workplace conflicts, we’ve outlined the steps you can take to bridge differences between you and your co-workers and start collaborating.

Understand the other person

When there is a disagreement between you and other co-workers, step back and try to understand their intent. Learn a little about their background and history. If they’re from a different age group, try to consider the era they grew up in. If they’re from a different culture, look for possible reasons that they come to the conclusions they do. If you can’t find the answers yourself, just ask. By looking a bit deeper, you should be able to move to the next step.

Discover common ground

People like – and work better with – people who are like themselves. Fortunately for you, it’s very likely that there’s more in common between you and others you may disagree with than the place where you both work. What other similarities might you have with them? Maybe you went to the same university or perhaps you have a similar heritage.

Ask about their interests and plans. What made them decide to live here? What are some of their personal and professional goals? Maybe your common ground is something as simple as watching the same TV shows or enjoying the same hobbies.

Make a connection

Once you’ve found common ground, it will be easier to make a connection. Connections are typically made when you ask other people questions about themselves and show interest in the things they care about. To do this, you’ll need to create situations where you’ll have an opportunity to talk with them.

Ask a co-worker to get lunch together and don’t spend the whole time talking about work. If there’s an event coming up in your area that you think that person might like to go to, extend an invite. You may not even need to leave the office to make a connection. Next time you have a work project that you think the colleague would enjoy, ask whether he or she has time and interest in helping. All of these scenarios can provide you with an opportunity to connect, and potentially to see beyond the disagreement you have.

Adapt your style

Now that you have connected with – and better understand – the individual or group of people you’ve clashed with, it’s time to adapt your style to work with theirs. Obviously, there are likely some things you can’t be flexible on. If something goes against your ethical standards or it doesn’t make business sense, you shouldn’t adapt to it. However, when it comes to less critical issues that are usually just personal preferences, you should be willing to meet them halfway.

It can also be helpful to let them know you’re trying to adapt. If they understand that you are attempting to reach a compromise, it’s likely they’ll put forth some effort to try and do the same.

In summary

In order to be truly innovative, your company needs to be made up of a variety of different views and opinions. This can’t be done if you simply write off anyone with a frame of mind that varies from your own. By implementing these steps, you’ll be able to move past workplace differences and turn conflict into collaboration.

For more information about bridging workplace differences, contact Daniel White using the information below.

Daniel White

Vice President
Org. Development & Family Business Services

Daniel White assists organizations with their organizational development needs, including strategic and operational planning, leadership development, succession and exit planning, and family business advising. He has worked with a wide range of industries, including construction, healthcare, manufacturing, banking, not-for-profits, and government organizations. He has also worked internationally as an organizational development consultant, serving organizations in Bolivia, Guatemala and Ghana. Prior to advising organizations, he worked in not-for-profit leadership and operations, directing projects with clients such as the US Department of State and the United Nations Population Fund.

Daniel serves as associate director of the Kansas Family Business Forum, hosted by Wichita State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship. He holds a certificate in Family Business Advising from The Family Firm Institute. Daniel also earned his Certified Exit Planner designation from BEI. This designation demonstrates he is qualified to provide comprehensive, professionally executed exit planning services. He has been published in Fast Company and several academic journals, and he has presented at a number of national conferences.

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