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Dealing with conflict requires a values-based approach. Here’s why

Do you really want to be the only one rowing?

When it comes to dealing with change, conflict can often arise…

…and if you don’t tackle the change from the right direction, you could easily find yourself in a boat full of people who simply refuse to row along with you.

Adapting to change is critical – in both our professional and private lives – and dealing effectively with conflict separates those who excel from those who simply go in circles.

So let’s talk about an approach to change and conflict that advances your goals, and that of the people around you…

Defining conflict objectively rather than subjectively

For the sake of argument – if you’ll pardon the pun – I’m going to refer to “conflict” as…

any situation in which yours and another person’s or organization’s desires, goals, concerns differ from one another.

When you consider a sporting event, it’s a given that a competitive conflict exists…one team is trying to outscore the other, that’s the point.

But what if the players aren’t following the same rules or upholding the same standards? What if, even among teammates, there’s a disagreement about what the coach has taught the players and the most effective way to execute it…?

There would be conflict.

The two continuums of conflict

Based on my years working as a workforce wellness expert, I’ve established that conflict happens on two continuums…

And the first two questions to answer when seeking conflict resolution are,

  1. What is the value of the goal?
  2. What is the value of the relationship?

Most conflict occurs based on differences in nature, personality type. But often, they happen around differences in values.

What do I mean?

When I refer to natures or personalities, I’m talking about the way people make decisions.

Some people will make their decisions based purely on objective criteria when faced with change or conflict. They’ll lean on policies, procedures, rules, standards…regardless of feelings and personal values.

For them, choices are black and white.

Others will rely heavily on their feelings to make decisions. This can be labelled as subjective, empathetic, relationally-oriented. They’re more willing to consider extenuating circumstances, give someone the benefit of the doubt, give a second chance…and forgo a blind adherence to rules, policies, and standards.

For them, the world has some grey areas.

Neither approach is wrong.

The art is in balancing the two approaches in your workplace when you’re dealing with change…

All values have short-term costs

When we examine the two questions of dealing with conflict in a constructive way, it means you and I need to be willing to ask ourselves…” What is the value of the goal in this situation?”

On the other hand, if the value of the relationship is more important, there’s a good chance that some goals will be sacrificed…and possibly never accomplished.

All values have short-term costs…

We can sacrifice our values – which impacts our thriving – for the sake of either the goal or the relationship, but you’ll be faced with one of five scenarios.

1. Win/Lose

Like a sporting competition, someone comes out on top.

2. Lose/Lose

Both parties avoid conflict, and nobody’s objectives are achieved.

3. Lose/Win

One party will lose so the other can win.

4. Win/Win

Both parties collaborate, the relationship is maintained, and goals are achieved.

5. Nobody loses

Otherwise known as a compromise and possibly the least constructive option when dealing with conflict.

You can dive into more detail on these concepts – the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode – here.

But think about the battles you choose, and how you value the relationships and goals…and the potential impact on thriving when you’re facing change.

Is there a right way to make the bed?

My wife and I were talking about this the other day.

We were looking back at when our children were younger. Then, she had a way she wanted – and expected – them to make their beds in the morning. And they routinely failed to meet her expectations…

But was it the battle she wanted to fight and maybe win? Was she going to give in to her urges and go “remake” their beds the way she wanted them to be? What was the cost to her relationship with her children, and what was her goal?

She chose to accept their best effort rather than her definition of how things should go…of course; we had one child argue that it was pointless to make the bed when they were just going to mess it up again that night…

I’m a natural conflict-avoider. So I had to find a way to deal with differences that weren’t just creating Win/Lose scenarios…or be taken advantage of because I would avoid conflict rather than hash it out.

We both had to balance a values-anchored approach…

We had to learn how to see and interpret the facts

A values-anchored approach is a third-party perspective – the view from 30,000 feet.

The solution in conflict resolution is to clarify your mindset and know-how to interpret the evidence or facts in front of you…

Begin by taking notes.

It’s vital that you put it down on paper, so you’re not relying on the imaginings in your mind. Write down what you’ve observed, what you believe the other person has observed.

Then meet the person face-to-face and say, “Here’s what I thought we had agreed to.”

If you hadn’t clarified your expectations beforehand, established your values, collaborated on your goals, and your relationship, this will probably be difficult…but illuminating.

Whether your values are transparency, clarifying goals and expectations, communication…you’ve taken the “behaviour” out of the equation.

Now you can manage the change, resolve the conflict without the cloud of misperceptions, hurt feelings, judgement…

Be wary of your “winning” attitude

Special note here…

If the goal is always to win, that means always being in control or always having control. If you need to win every disagreement, difference, and debate, I guarantee one of two things will happen:

  • you will win all things because people will not debate or argue with you.
  • You will be surrounded with “yes people” which means even more work for you as you are now the only one rowing.

If you take a value-based approach to change and conflict resolution, you’re more likely to get everyone rowing in the same direction.

Would you like to learn more about change management and conflict resolution? You have employees slowly returning to the office, and there will be many changes in the dynamics as everyone adjusts.

Get ahead of the potential disruption and engage your team in solid change management strategies.

I can help. Let’s talk.

Enjoyed this article? Here are three more to help you:

​​Your Life Goals Are Achievable, Just Fill Your Own Bucket!
Crisis Intervention Is An Opportunity, Not A Limitation or Liability
Normalizing Mental Health Requires Normalizing Emotions