3 Tips for Leveraging Differences in the Workplace


As Barney sang on Barney & Friends, “everyone is special, everyone in his or her own way.”  In fact, it is our “specialness” that makes us human and creates the differences in values, thinking and philosophy that can cause conflict in the workplace.  It is also this “specialness” that presents an opportunity for growth and a competitive advantage for individuals and organizations able and willing to embrace differences and conflict.

So, how does one learn to “embrace” differences and conflict?  Here are 3 tips.

1.      “Name” the Conflict

While it might seem obvious, it is only human to try and avoid unpleasantness and most people think of conflict at work as unpleasant.  By “naming” the conflict, you put the issue on the table and open it up for discussion.

2.      Be Curious

Understanding the other person’s perspective is critical.  Having an attitude of curiosity enables you to explore the other’s perspective with an open mind. Avoid preconceived conclusions and take the time to inquire and truly listen to the other person’s concerns or underlying worries that have led them to take the position they are taking.  Using the “curiosity” approach to understanding the other person’s perspective encourages the exploration of ideas and potentially to a new and better approach.  This approach also fosters a winners and learners philosophy on teams vs. winners and losers.

3.      Focus on Facts Not Personalities

Research consistently finds a direct link between reliance on facts and low levels of interpersonal conflict in the workplace.  With facts, people tend to move swiftly to the central issues.  Absent facts, people instead tend to suspect others’ motives.


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