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Reframing Thoughts


You're Missing the Point!
Is it conflict or incompatibility?

When two people seem to have problems working together, do they have a conflict or are they incompatible? And hey, isn't "incompatibility" just a personal relationship type of word? Nope. Incompatibility is a term related to being so opposed as to be incapable of co-existing. And we've seen that in the workplace, right?

Incompatibility is more prevalent when people don't agree on the purpose behind the work, or they strongly believe there is a different purpose than the one stated. Obviously, if people don't agree on purpose, they won't agree on the best processes required along the way.

A conflict happens when people who agree on purpose don't agree on how to achieve it. When leaders do the hard work of clarifying purpose with their teams, it helps the team see their conflicts as either a debate to choose the processes that will get them there or to determine (processes for) how people should treat each other along the way, both of which can require compromise and negotiation. The point is to see purpose as higher than process.

Conflicts between co-workers can often be coached or trained to improvement by developing team members' self-awareness and communication skills, as well as encouraging a culture of valuing the strengths, needs, and priorities of one another. Even with a shared purpose though, if one person consistently navigates for their own gain, micro-focusing on their own preferences or need to control the processes, conflicts become redefined as incompatibilities because the higher shared purpose gets lost behind the ego of an individual. 

"It's not how compatible you are, but how you deal with the incompatibility."
~ Tolstoy

Is compatibility out of our control, though? Don't look at the wrong thing. It's not usually the two people. It's that there are two incompatible purposes. People might appear incompatible while working on one project and be perfectly compatible working on another project where they have shared purpose. They might still have some conflicts, but if they truly agree on the purpose, they can often work through how to get it done.

"In choosing global corporate partners UNICEF emphasises compatibility with our core values and looks to build alliances that advance our mission of ensuring the health, education, equality and protection for all the world's children."
~ Carol Bellamy

When leaders realize a team member's idea of purpose is incompatible with the organization's,  it's best to part ways. When people actually have compatible expectations about the purpose, all that's left is to debate the processes, and that's healthy. That should be expected. Great teams should always be searching together for the best way to make their shared purpose a reality. When purpose, framed by shared values, drives the way people and companies work together, compatibility flourishes and conflicts are more easily resolved. 

Now it's time for you to decide if your most challenging personnel situation at work stems from a conflict or an incompatibility? Either one is a mess if it lasts too long.

Trudy Menke - Reframing Leadership 

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Trudy Menke-Reframing Leadership · 55873 Great Blue Heron Ct · New Carlisle, IN 46552 · USA

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