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How to overcome Value Conflicts?

"I am getting into a low-trust zone with my boss because I am disagreeing with her on certain key approaches. I can see that she is visibly upset with the way that I am voicing my disagreement. For me, its important that my leader allows me to feel safe enough to convey my disagreements and not be misunderstood. That's how I lead my teams. However my boss does not seem to like disagreements or the way I voice them. What can I do to navigate the situation?"

~ Senior Leader, Power industry

Conflicts of PoVs (Point of View) in the work place is Business As Usual (BAU). It's not abnormal. It becomes a problem when it obstructs progress or hampers psychological safety.

Underlying most conflicts are a difference in values. Our life experiences, culture & people around us aid in the formation our values to a great extent. Hence there is variance. There is a no universal template for values. Values are relative. They change with every person.

Conflict Management strategies are summarised by the Thomas Kilmann model to the left:

1. Competition (High Assertiveness, Low Cooperation)

2. Avoidance (Low Assertiveness, Low Cooperation)

3. Accommodation (High Cooperation, Low Assertiveness)

4. Collaboration ( High Assertiveness, High Cooperation). Pic Courtesy: Sketch Bubble

Most people err in the side of cooperativeness. They think being assertive alone will get past the conflict. This only increases decibels of speech with no results. This leads to relationships get into the low trust zone.

What can one do to navigate value conflicts?

1. Separate the issue from the person

A point of view and the person having the point of view are not the same even though the former emerges from the later.

The more we mix them up, the more personal it gets and more hurtful it becomes.

Disagree all you want to with the PoV and not with the person. Know that the PoV can become obsolete or redundant with time. However the person stays on and you need to work with them.

2. Mindset shift: Each person is free to choose their own values

Since values are relative, each person is free to choose which ones they will live by.

While leadership philosophies may point to some values as must have, each person is on their own leadership journey. They may not be upto speed on some.

So right Vs wrong Values will not get you anywhere.

3. Listening

Sometimes we listen to say/speak and not listen to really understand.

Ensure that your lack of listening is not coming in the way of trust.

Whenever there is an impulse to disagree - watch your attention. Is it really in the place it should be? A witness perspective helps you be objective.

4. Ask how the person likes to be presented with a disagreement proactively

A little personalisation is all you need to improve the experience. Before you have the need to disagree, please ask the person how would they like to be offered fresh/new perspectives which are different from theirs.

That will help them open up to you and you can also tailor your disagreement to be a lot more palatable.

If you need to disagree with the style of the person, use "I" statements. 'I can work better.......'. Ensure that you voice disagreements in a one-o-one setting and not a group setting.

More on difficult conversations here.

How do you offer your disagreement?

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