5 Tips to Reduce Coworker Conflict and Improve Collaboration

By Robert Half Legal

Working well with others is essential for legal professionals. Yet, it can be challenging at times to interact effectively with colleagues whose work style, experience level or generational background may be quite different from your own. Sometimes collaborating successfully can be the most challenging part of getting your job done, especially if you work in a high-pressure setting.

Most people recognize that opposites can bring complementary strengths to the table, and this often leads to strong partnerships. But conflicts are inevitable if legal professionals don’t try to adapt to one another’s style. Rather than allowing your differences to create frustration and stress, try these tips for improving collaboration with your coworkers:

1. Acknowledge differences. Don’t be afraid to recognize your clashing work styles. Allowing room for compromise and talking it out may even bring some humor to the situation. Once you’ve both acknowledged your different work styles or preferences, it becomes much easier to negotiate how best to proceed.

2. Don’t aim too high. While you don’t have to have to be close friends with everyone in the office, you do need to find a way to work effectively with them. This may help you recalibrate your expectations for office relationships and stay focused on tackling the tasks at hand.

3. Avoid miscommunication. Maybe you keep getting your wires crossed with a team member because you’re trading emails or instant messages, rather than actually talking. Try to find a better solution, such as more face-to-face communication. Ask leading questions so that the other person gives you specific answers with the detail you’re seeking. If necessary, summarize the information you’ve been given and ask for final confirmation.

4. Remember the positive. Although it may be initially challenging to work with someone whose professional style is completely at odds with yours, it doesn’t mean the person doesn’t have unique contributions to make. Once you understand someone’s approach and preferences, working together becomes less about differences and more about taking advantage of each other’s individual strengths.

5. Know your own idiosyncrasies. Recognize that your habits can frustrate your colleagues just as much as their habits may annoy you. What do friends and family say you do that can be annoying? Are you too rigid about how things should be done, or do you tend to procrastinate? If you sense that something about your work style grates on a coworker, don’t be afraid to broach the subject and consider how to make adjustments.

Sure, day-to-day interactions would probably be easier if everyone in your office had the same work style. But as appealing as that may sound on the surface, a small degree of friction is often useful in reaching the best outcome. Taking the time to understand how your colleagues prefer to do their jobs, as well as how you approach work, won’t solve every issue, but it can help you build more effective professional relationships. As a bonus, you’ll be seen as someone with a flexible style who can work well with anyone. And this quality can only help your career in today’s team-oriented work environments.