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Unpacking Value Clashes



What are Value Clashes?


When it's hard for you to understand someone else's motivation for behaving a certain way, it's usually because they place a lot of weight in a value that is low on your totem pole.


There are a number of opposing values that constantly seem to cause problems between people. During conflict, a person may take a strong stance for one value at the expense of the other.


The more extreme someone is in demonstrating one value in their everyday behavior, the more they will attract conflict with people who prefer the opposite value.


Equality versus Status


People respond to status differently. Some people will always emphasize the equality between people and minimize differences. Others demand respect for the status and distinction that power brings.


Equality: The Equalizers will work hard to avoid arousing other people's jealousy. They'll use fairness as their yardstick for evaluating alternatives. They'll come out fighting to support the rights of friends and colleagues.


Status: The Status Magnets may be striving for self-improvement, self-reliance, building self-respect, creating a clear chain of command, supporting justice and obedience to law and instructions.


Agreement versus Competition


Some people use an interacting style that primarily focuses on collaboration and agreement. Others enjoy a healthy (or not-so-healthy) dose of competition.


Agreement: The Agreers will keep the peace, emphasize similarities and common ground, and hate to leave a disagreement hanging in the air.


Competition: The Competitors value competition because it drives people forward and tests their worth. They will accept some level of aggression as a part of the rough and tumble life they tribe on, coming out on top after a struggle.



Feelings Versus actions

People focus their attention differently. Some people get their primary source of information from feelings - their own and others'. Others focus on actions or objects, the external world.


Feelings: Feelers are relatively willing to disclose vulnerable feelings and will use emotions as a guide to action.


Actions: Action Figures will generally steer a conversation away from feelings. They'll build rapport through the exchange of information about activities and objects. The world of feelings may be difficult, private, or uncharted territory.


Dependence versus Independence


For those whose comfort zone is interdependence, working in a team or being part of a family are the keys to their life. Others need autonomy, and may see anyone who doesn't as weak, dependent, or interfering.


Dependence: The Dependent function best when they are working in a team or part of a family unit. When taken to the extreme, it can foster an unhealthy reliance on others.


Independent: For the Independent, the goal is proving themselves, solving their problems alone, and working independently. They might work well with others, but they have a clearly defined sense of self and they like sole responsibility in their area.


Signs of a Value Clash


We are very individual on how we'd rank these eight values. Our priorities are influenced by our personalities, life experiences, cultures, and the way we view a particular situation.


Listen for hints of a value clash, when one of the parties feels like their values are not being met.


  • That's Not Fair!

    • Underlying Value: Equality

  • Show Some Respect!

    • Underlying Value: Status

  • Why do you always have to make such a fuss?

    • Underlying Value: Agreement

  • If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    • Underlying Value: Competition

  • You don't care how I feel! You're not listening!

    • Underlying Value: Feelings

  • Stop complaining and get to work!

    • Underlying Value: Action

  • We're all in this together!

    • Underlying Value: Interdependence

  • Let me do it myself! Don't tell me what to do!

    • Underlying Value: Autonomy


There is a changing emphasis on these values in work & business.


Best practices in leadership is shifting attention towards equality, agreement, feelings, and interdependence, and moving away from authoritarian control.

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