I have a major personality clash with one of my colleagues. We both get along pretty well with the rest of the team, but we both have strong opinions and disagree frequently. The problem has been getting worse since he joined the team a year ago. We now have full-on arguments on a weekly basis, and I am not able to participate in any discussion with him as he continually talks over me.

I know I am quite "outspoken" as our boss puts it. I have tried to tone down how I present my opinions and to give this guy more opportunity to say his piece, but this has not changed his behaviour. I have also attempted to talk with him about it, but he does not seem to think that it is a problem. Our boss is somewhat aware of the issue but has a lot of other responsibilities and generally expects us to sort out our own problems.

I have concluded that I am no longer able to work with my colleague, as I am not comfortable interacting with him (or even interacting with other team members in his presence), we are disrupting the rest of the team, and the situation is beginning to affect my mental health.

I am brainstorming the options that I have available to address the problem. I've come up with a few ideas:

  • Resign
  • Ask for a transfer to another team
  • Ask for a reallocation of duties so that I don't have to interact with this colleague as much

Are there any other solutions to resolve the situation that I could consider?

EDIT: To clarify, I am looking for the options that I should consider after all efforts to resolve the issue directly with my colleague have failed. I realise that it takes two to tango and I assume that since he gets along well enough with everyone else that there must be some fault on my side, but at this point I have been trying harder to get along with him for several months and the situation is escalating so I have decided that some other action is necessary.

  • He thinks he has won over you. Ask your boss who of you is captain, and gets the deciding vote. If it is you, good for you, if it is him, live with it. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 1 '14 at 12:13
  • Avoid verbal communication with him. Communicate using emails for official work. If he interferes while you are talking to someone else, do not give response. Simply behave as if he does not exist if there is no official work involved. Avoid talking even looking at him. Silence is the biggest weapon. You can not win him with argument. Practice this for one month. Make it difficult and awkward for him to talk to you. Your response is what he feeds on. He may be a sociopath. You can google articles on how to deal with sociapaths. – cartina Nov 3 '14 at 9:23
  • Avoid expressing your views on anything in office. Give neutral or politically correct answers. – cartina Nov 3 '14 at 9:29

Long time ago, I had serious problems (similar to yours) with a colleague. I talked to my boss and asked to transfer to another team.

My boss said he can do so, but he asked me a question: what if you have problem with another colleague in another team, are you going to transfer again?

I went back to my desk and gave it a serious thought. I decided to stay with the team and worked with that colleague. It turned out that it wasn't that bad and we finished that project and went to different places afterwards.

My advice to you: try to work with that colleague and give him and yourself another chance. Try your best. If it does not work out, then transfer to another team.

It's hard to tell from the description of the problems you have with your colleague. Is it really his problem? Or yours? Or both should take responsibility? If you have some share of the responsibilities, you need to correct your behavior. Otherwise, you will have problems with other people whose personality is similar to your colleague's. In other words, you will keep having problems in your workplace. There are all kinds of people in the workplaces.

Your next option would be reallocation of duties or even resign. I would not do so unless there are other reasons, for example, a so-so job, bad boss, bad work environment, bad company, poor pay etc. It's not worth it to quit a job just because of a hard-to-work-with colleague.

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    Your boss is a wise man. In the end it's work that has to be done. Personal 'feelings' should not hinder your ability to solve problems. You can't dodge all the people in the work you don't like - so grow and become a better person yourself. – mhr Oct 31 '14 at 9:45
  • @user12345 I had edited my answer in response to your edit. Then I saw another user already suggested it to you, i.e. talk to your boss. I agree with the comment below it, it's a nuclear option. It's not something I would really suggest. Therefore, I back it out. You can see my edit hisory if you are interested in it – scaaahu Nov 1 '14 at 8:29
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    @scaaahu As someone on co-op right now, this is a very wise answer. I thank you and your boss for the knowledge. – theGreenCabbage Nov 1 '14 at 15:26

The first thing that I would try to do is set up a meeting between your manager, your colleague, and yourself. That way, you can prove that you have made a serious effort to fix the problem. Your manager can also act as a moderator and keep all the egos in check and make sure that everyone has a chance to speak (no talking over each other).

No matter how busy your manager is, there is nothing more important for him than to ensure that his team is working effectively. If he knows there is a problem and that the teams performance is suffering, then he needs to fix it.

It would be a good idea to sit down with your manager before the meeting just to clarify what you want his role to be. Tell him you want him to moderate the meeting, not take sides, make sure everyone gets to say their piece, and keep everything honest and friendly. Make sure you aren't bad mouthing your co-worker during this setup meeting.

If you do this, and still nothing improves, then at least your manager knows that you tried to work things out.

I would also closely analyze my own behaviour. I know you "have tried to tone down" your personality, but a great man (do you have to be human to be a man?) once said "Do, or do not; there is no try". Be honest with yourself; is there a reason he is acting this way? Does he feel bullied by you trying to force your opinion on him and the team? If so, he might just be trying to stand up for himself. Are you talking badly about him behind his back? If so, he might have heard about it and is trying to defend himself. Are you over reacting to someone who has the same personality as you? My experience is that "outspoken" people sometimes get too big of an ego and then over react when someone else doesn't share their opinion and disagrees with them.

I would be very careful about completely blaming the other person in this situation. If your manager knows about the problem but is acting uninterested, it might be because he thinks you have some degree of fault in the whole affair.

Also, bring your co-worker a coffee one morning. An act of pure, honest, genuine friendship is hard to be mad at...

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    Bringing the boss into the discussion is like the nuclear option. It sends the message that you want an official record of your attempt to resolve the problem. Your boss may appreciate it but it's quite possible your coworker will not. If possible, I would try to get your coworker to agree that things could be better between you and then think together about how that could happen, possibly by having your boss mediate or offer outside suggestions. – Eric Oct 31 '14 at 19:28
  • I think you should pursue other options first before involving your boss - you might improve your inter-person skills. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Nov 1 '14 at 12:19
  • I agree that my solution is nuclear. Thorbjorn The problem is that it seems he already has "pursued other options", but his co-worker refuses to address the problem. Eric, That was pretty much what I was getting at. You want to have a meeting where you discuss how to improve things with your co-worker, and just have your boss there as a mediator. – Peter Maidens Nov 3 '14 at 17:50

When I was VERY early in my career I faced a somewhat similar situation.

I had a colleague who I was hired on to work with. When we first started working together everything was pretty good, we had strongly opposing views on the world, but we tended to respect each other's view and rather than argue, we would philosophically debate our perspectives.

Well there became competition at work because I had effectively taken over his job as he was lazy and constantly passed his work my way. At that time our situation was a lot like yours. Arguments ensued, the office became pretty hostile, etc. (I wasn't an arguementive person, but I also don't let people accuse me of things I hadn't done)

I made it a point to bring things to my boss in the clear. I explained things between myself and the colleague had degraded badly, and that I was doing what I could to mitigate the problem, but ultimately something had to happen as it was getting worse.

My boss found ways to mitigate things, albeit I'd say only partially successfully, but it ended up being enough as eventually my colleague decided to go with the nuclear option and tried to plant evidence to get me fired. It backfired, and he was fired on the spot.

So my advice, let your boss know exactly what's going on and let him or her know you will do what you can to help, but the problem is a mutual one between you and your colleague and you believe outside mitigation is necessary to make it a tenable situation. (Let your boss decide move you to another dept, move the colleague, fire you, fire the colleague, come up with some kind of mitigation strategy, etc.)

Sure you could get fired... but if your considering quitting that's not that big a deal.


From my own experience:

It is really important to make workplace comfortable. First of all, don’t make enemies or don’t fuel them. Most of the problems would resolved if we are open to accept our mistakes & honest criticism made by others.

What do you expect from him, it is better you start giving to him. You will see the difference.

Appreciate your colleague for his good work or for the good suggestions he has contributed in your team discussion. Discuss with him about your opinions and ask his suggestions before even you present them to your team. Use his name in team meetings, ex: I should thank Mr.xxx for his great ideas, etc.

Do not preoccupied with the past incidence. Smile at him, wish him these little things will make huge difference. It is better if you both become family friends.

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    "Becoming family friends" sounds like a bit too radical solution – Denis Kniazhev Nov 1 '14 at 9:10

Another idea not mentioned yet, text taken from Psychology wiki:

One of the concepts found in corporate executive office politics is called being "kicked upstairs". This is when an unliked or underperforming executive in charge of some portion of a corporation, is said to have been promoted (and might report then to the person his current boss is reporting to), yet is given only a small amount of responsibility, if any. This may be viewed as either punishment or damage control.

Basically praise his work and insight and get him transfered as a treat, not as punishment. Alaska would be a good destination if you have offices there.

  • The term for such a move is either a "percussive sublimation" or a "lateral arabesque" See The Peter Principle... – DJohnM Nov 3 '14 at 0:10

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