What Drives Workplace Conflict?




Imagine a fictional organization that has a small, shared resource library for staff use. Andrew is responsible for maintaining the library’s organization, and it’s a role that‘s very important to him. He’s created a welcoming space with good lighting and a comfortable chair, perfect for reading. Andrew purposefully arranged the resources in a visually pleasing and practical manner, grouping together like materials – paperbacks, magazines and videos – in designated sections throughout the room.

Silvia is the resource library’s primary user. She carries a large client load and uses the materials in the library to better serve the people she works with. It’s important to her to gather the information she needs quickly and efficiently. In its current arrangement, Silvia must go to three different sections (paperbacks, magazines and videos) to find the resources she needs. As a result, she keeps a stack of her most-used resources together in a corner of the room for easy access.

On more than one occasion, Andrew discovers Silvia’s stack and re-shelves all the items. “Why does Silvia always leave the library in such a mess?” he wonders. When Silvia returns to the library and discovers her carefully compiled stack is missing again, she is frustrated. “Why does Andrew make it so hard for me to access the resources I need and use?” she wonders. They both think, “I need to address this situation.”

What’s going on with Andrew and Silvia?

As individuals, we’re  each motivated by a set of unique values called Driving Forces.  These values are the “why” behind our actions and behaviors.  Developed by TTI Success Insights ™, these 12 Driving Forces play a major role in determining your engagement at work, and if not properly understood, your drivers can cause conflict with coworkers.

Like Andrew and Silvia, you may find yourself in conflict, and not know why. In this case, the issue is with one Driving Force in particular: their surroundings. Andrew needs his surroundings to be in harmony, and he considers the entire experience of the library for everyone who uses it.  Silvia, on the other hand, prefers functionality to harmony, and compartmentalizes the library’s use for her specific needs. After understanding the root of the issue, it’s clear that both Andrew and Silvia value their surroundings, but not in same way.

Finding Yourself in a Conflict?

So, what do you do when you find yourself in conflict with someone in the workplace? In our Conflict Mitigation & Team Dynamics intensive, we recommend following a four-step process:

  1. Be aware. Take a time-out to understand the situation. What is driving you? What is driving the other party? Sometimes, conflict can be mitigated by a shared understanding of differing behavioral styles and driving forces.
  2. Prepare. Prepare yourself to have a critical, purposeful conversation with your colleague seeks to build trust between you.
  3. Communicate. Discuss the situation with your colleague openly, and in a way that respects their strengths and unique qualities.
  4. Follow up. Last, but certainly not least, make sure you follow up with your colleague. Strong relationships are built on many, varied interactions in which people can be vulnerable with one another.

Want to learn more about what causes conflict and how to mitigate it? Join us for Conflict Mitigation & Team Dynamics to learn tools and techniques for creating a healthy environment, replacing workplace conflict with productive dialogue.

Or maybe you’d like to learn more about what drives you and your colleagues to action, and how those motivators impact your relationship at work. Email Director of Learning & Leadership, Ann Starr, today to discuss how we can explore these concepts in a customized training.

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