Work: Getting Along with “Strange People”

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Different professions attract different kinds of people. When offices mix these professional groups together, things can get a little tribal, and more than a little tense.

In a recent survey of chief financial officers (CFOs), the staffing experts at Robert Half Finance & Accounting found that having to deal with people from a different professional “tribe” can be a source of great stress.

CFOs were asked, “Which one of the following do you think is the greatest challenge for accounting and finance professionals when working with coworkers in other departments?” Their responses:

Learning to interact with a variety of personalities


Managing stress arising from crisis situations


Prioritizing conflicting deadlines throughout the enterprise


Conveying financial information in nonfinancial terms


Don’t know



“For functions such as accounting and finance that interact with a broad cross-section of business units, navigating disparate protocols and personalities can be tricky,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half.

Robert Half Finance & Accounting is offering the following five tips to improve cross-department collaboration:

1. Build bridges. The person you call out publicly in a budget meeting could be the one you need to sign-off on an expense request next week. Instead of burning bridges, try to understand pressures your colleagues may be facing in their own jobs. This can give you greater insight into their approach and help you enhance rapport.

2. Make sure everyone has a voice. Meet frequently with team members and be sure to ask less vocal colleagues for their opinions so everyone has a chance to chime in. Also get to know employees in various departments so it’s easier to work together in the future.

3. Don’t put off the inevitable. Avoiding confrontation doesn’t address the root of a problem or help to foster collaboration. Take the time to peacefully resolve work conflicts, and listen as much as you talk during these conversations.

4. Skip the silo mentality. Companies that readily share information across departments tend to see greater efficiencies and higher staff morale. Providing others with insight into processes also helps them understand the time or resources needed for various cross-department initiatives.

5. Put yourself out there. Spend time outside the office with colleagues to strengthen relationships at work. Chat at company gatherings or invite coworkers from other departments to lunch to get to know them better.”

This is good advice, but it would be a hard sell for many of the most “silo” departments. After all, some professions just seem to attract people who have a hard time “putting themselves out there” socially.

Perhaps the real audience for this advice are senior managers, who need to realize that the different groups they have in their companies can become antagonistic towards one another, and need to be brought closer together.

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