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Why conflicts happen at workplace ?

The hidden reason behind conflicts at workplace…

Recently, I delivered a leadership program for senior leaders of a financial institution

One of the sessions was on “Managing conflicts at workplace”

There was a lot of active engagement during the session on reasons for conflicts :

Difference of opinions 

Difference of perceptions

Difference in expectations


Ofcourse, all this is because we are different and unique individuals with different viewpoints

But the problem is when we are NOT open to other people’s ideas and opinions

That’s when conflicts happen

But that’s pretty obvious, right ?

But there is a hidden reason for conflicts at workplace

Something which many leaders are not aware of..

Something which happens unconsciously..

You know what it is ?

Value Conflict

When your values don't match with the values of the other person

This is by far one of the least understood reasons for conflicts 

Let me illustrate with an example

Let’s say one of your core values is independence

And my value is teamwork

This could create a possible value conflict

Since you value independence, I might perceive that you are not a good team player

I might perceive “teamwork” is your areas of improvement

But that’s not true, because it’s not that you can’t work in teams

It’s just that you value independence more

And this can create friction between us on a daily basis

And the challenge is that neither you or me will know the reason behind this

We will try to find faults with each other and try to fix each other

This also happens at an organizational level, when your personal values don’t align with what organizational values

Let me give an example of this as well

Let’s say your organization values discipline a lot

They expect people to follow rules strictly

Whereas one of your core values is freedom, which can create a potential conflict 

The way this will manifest is that you might find it difficult to adjust in a discipline-driven culture or you might not be able to perform at your optimum level

You see….

We see behavior and actions. We can’t see values

Not being aware of your own values or the value of other person can lead to such conflicts

The interesting part..

There's no right or wrong here

Our values don’t match

You value something, I value something else

That’s it !

And as you can see, value conflicts are not just applicable to workplace

These play out equally in personal lives as well and could impact personal relationships 

So here are some reflections and actions you can take :

  1. Look at some of the recent examples of conflicts ( both personal and professional ). See whether the reason for those conflicts could have been a conflict of values ? If yes, then what is that you could have done better ?
  2. Value discovery can be a powerful exercise in self-awareness. Are you truly aware of your core values as a leader ?
  3. Which of your values could now be coming in your way and preventing your from building strong relationships ? This is a tricky question as the answer may not be as straightforward, so might need some introspection and even discussion with your colleagues


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