Help, I have a personality clash with my manager!

woman having conflict at work

There are few things in the working world more challenging than when you have a personality clash with your manager.

We asked career coach Rachel Hill for her take on this all-too-common problem.

When people say they have a personality clash with their manager, they mean that they don’t get along with them for some reason or another. This can be as simple as having nothing in common or as severe as being unable to work well together. The latter can cause significant anxiety and lead to you not wanting to go to work.

Why do you need to resolve a clash of personalities?

While it’s not necessary to like everyone you work with, you need to find a common footing to achieve your working goals. This is important for your well-being and future workplace advancement.

It’s all too easy to place the responsibility entirely on your manager’s shoulders, expecting them to make all the effort on the assumption that since they’re the manager, it’s up to them to, well, manage. But the relationship between employee and employer is a two-way street – that is, you are both responsible.

This means that you need to work to establish a good working relationship with your manager too. If you’re in a situation where you think your personalities are at odds with one another, try and take a step back to see where the relationship went off the rails.

Pinpoint the underlying cause

Was it an off-colour remark? Did they fail to recognise an idea or an accomplishment of yours? Maybe you don’t have the same sense of humour. Is it possible that you’re being overly sensitive and reading too much into the situation? Or are they just impossible to get along with?

Sometimes, a working relationship can get off to a rocky start. People often make judgements based on previous experience, and when it doesn’t work out then they expect the other person to change instead of adjusting their working style.

Another issue is when people put leaders on a pedestal and hold them to impossibly high standards. Then, when there is a slip-up, either by doing or failing to do something the person thinks they should, it can cause an underlying tension. The other person may be completely oblivious or sense that something is amiss but has no idea how to fix it.

Resolve to find a middle ground

It’s important to remember that everyone is an individual and each has different ways of seeing the world. If you want to move past this issue, one approach is to take time to get to know the person behind the workplace veneer.

You can do this by going for a cup of coffee together or having a lunch meeting. This is where adopting an open mindset comes in handy. Prepare yourself beforehand to listen more than you talk by employing active listening. This will help you be present in the moment to take on board whatever they have to say.

Once you get to know your manager a little more, you may not like them any better, but it might help you see things from their point of view. You may even be surprised to find a common interest or learn something that enables you to view them in a different light. I’m not suggesting that you’ll become lifelong friends, but it might help you move past what, right now, seems like an insurmountable hurdle.

If, after trying different ways to build a good working relationship, you’re still unable to resolve the conflict, it may be time to consider moving teams, transferring or looking for a new job. It can help to talk it out with a trustworthy friend or family member before making any rash decisions. And, of course, if you need professional advice, I’m always here to help.


Rachel HillGuest Author

Rachel Hill works with people facing difficult situations in their work-life. With over 20 years of experience as a coach and senior manager, Rachel is armed with a wealth of wisdom and knowledge to help clients navigate real life dilemmas, from people who feel undervalued, stressed, bullied, or burnt out, to people overthinking, overworking or struggling with imposter syndrome – people stuck in their careers. More about Rachel.



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