Workplace Conflict and the Gap between Values and Behavior
Most people would say that “fear” makes people upset, anxious, abrasive or aggressive. And that is true, but the cause of their fear is most often “The Gap” between Values and Behavior. This gap could be the cause of much of your workplace conflict.
What is the Gap?
Let us say you have a low value around accuracy and thoroughness. You make mistakes but you do not pull your hair out when you do. And let us say you have a boss who has a high value around accuracy and thoroughness and cannot stand it when you make a mistake. It is quite possible your boss will “go ballistic” and say all sorts of terrible things to you.
Workplace Conflict: What happened?
The boss is relying upon you to be accurate and you failed. You have created the Gap – that is, the gap between his or her values and your behavior.
Your Boss’ Predictable Abrasive and Aggressive Responses to the Gap:
- Take the work from you and do it
- Not trust you anymore and double/triple check your work.
- Yell at you in the hopes that you will stop making mistakes.
- Demand that you stop making mistakes
- Call you names and demand to know how you could be so “stupid”
Your Boss’ Possible Productive responses to the Gap:
- Discuss the values gap and elicit a commitment from you to work on closing the Gap.
- Hold you accountable for that commitment by measuring productivity.
- Teach you whatever you need to know to close the Gap.
- Help you to move on if you cannot make or honor that commitment to close the Gap.
What You Can Do to Avoid the Gap:
If you caused the Gap, remember that they are probably yelling at you because they are feeling the Gap. The Gap makes them anxious and maybe even a little afraid. They may be unable to explain the Gap to you but if you understand the concept, then you can take action to close the Gap, restore trust, and reduce the abrasive and aggressive behavior and other workplace conflict.