How is it some people handle arguments or disagreements with expertise, while you would do about anything to avoid conflict at work?
The Meaning Behind Conflict
Your meeting style is to schedule out days ahead of time, but your colleagues like impromptu. You prefer transparency but management prefers secrecy. Customers may put you on the spot by publicly challenging your words.
Conflicting experiences like these can make or break your day at work. And they can happen often given the spectrum of personalities across the organization.
Honestly, you probably don’t want to spend your days battling with others. Worse, sometimes you would rather suffer in silence than defend. You have learned that workplace conflicts ought to be chosen with care, because they require energy and mental finesse. Sometimes it seems easier to just avoid conflict at work.
Conflict can be draining and distracting, especially for introverts. As if doing a good job isn’t eating up your energy and resources already. Dealing with conflict can require:
- Critically thinking and verbalizing your way through disagreements
- Superb communication skills
- Using the proper, non-offensive language and tone of voice
- Taking a risk of pissing people off, whether or not you’re correct
One helpful perspective to embrace is that conflict indicates a difference in values.
Conflict can arise when your individual values, cherished by you only, are different from another’s values. Which is why diversity can be so helpful (or painful) in the workplace. When different value systems collide, it can be challenging for individuals to not feel defensive.
You value certain ideas, things, and people. And it is completely within your right to decide which things are most valuable to you. The values you hold dear are the values that represent who you are as a person. Just the same, other people get to own their values. These are values, or beliefs, we can refer to as core values.
Conflict may arise when core values clash with one another.
According to Indeed, “Core values are personal ethics or ideals that guide you when making decisions, building relationships and solving problems. Identifying the values that are meaningful in your life can help you to develop and achieve personal and professional goals.”
A list of your own core values, the values that represent who you, can act as a personal guidance tool. Core values will not only guide you through external conflict but through internal day-to-day decisions.
Conflict is Not Created Equally
It is worth noting that people find themselves in conflict for different reasons. A few examples:
- Case 1: They like conflict for the sake of conflict. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself. This type of person can be highly skilled in persuasion, sales or negotiation. They may be highly extroverted.
- Case 2: They know you hate it. This kind of insecure person may be highly skilled at bullying or blaming.
- Case 3: They are utterly convinced their answer is the best one.
Regardless of their reasons, the 3 examples of conflict boil down to a difference in values:
- In Case 1, this person may not have a nefarious agenda at all. Perhaps conflict for them speaks to their core value of being influential.
- In Case 2, this person might be attempting to stay true to their core value of success. Even if success means shutting others down.
- In Case 3, this person might be trying to stay true to their core value of conviction.
As a self-reflection exercise, I challenge you to investigate different core values and choose your own. It is simple enough to find examples online. Try and filter down to no more than 15 core values that represent who you are or who you strive to become.
Write them down, look at them and refer to them daily. Eventually when you find yourself wanting to avoid conflict at work, core values will serve as your anchor…
When faced with conflict, ask yourself, “Based on my values: who do I want to be right now and what does it look like to stay true to my values?” You cannot go wrong or betray yourself when you stay true to your values, regardless of the outcome.
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