By Lindsay Marcaccio

As I often do, I was having a discussion with my mentor about a challenge I was facing at work, which led us into a conversation about personal values. Specifically, what do you do when a project or a colleague’s behaviour conflicts with your own core values? 

Kelly Wood, founder of Kelly Wood Life Design + Facilitation, and Jenny Spurr, founder of Perch Communications, offer advice to navigate through a potentially tricky and challenging situation that can leave you with clammy palms, a racing heart rate and the feeling of a pit in the bottom of your stomach. 

Getting clear about your values

According to an Envato Tuts+ article, “personal values are the things that are important to us, the characteristics and behaviours that motivate us and guide our decisions.” 

“We are motivated differently, which can cause conflict if we are not aware of our values,” Kelly Wood, founder of Kelly Wood Life Design + Facilitation.

Identifying your values doesn’t have to be complicated. Wood suggests a good place to start is to ask yourself, “what’s important to me?” Or to examine your life and identify common themes. Consider what is it that drives you in life.

Personal values might include:

  • honesty
  • love
  • community
  • trust
  • authenticity

Wood advises not getting caught up on what others might define as values, but to focus on defining your values.

If you find yourself in a situation where your values are not aligning with a project, a colleague’s behaviour or corporate values–the fundamental beliefs of an organization that guide how business is done–it can be difficult to determine your next step. Yes, you can make up excuses to justify the poor behaviour or business practice but that is not a healthy nor long-term solution.

Resolving conflicting values

Spurr advises to first take a moment to identify what is specifically bothering you about the situation or project. Is it a difference of opinion? Is it a team member who is coming across as aggressive? Or is it a difference of how we are defining a value? “Sometimes in identifying the fundamental problem, the solution presents itself,” adds Wood. 

“In any conflict, take a moment to assess what is really bothering you,” Jenny Spurr, founder, Perch Communications.

The next step is to have a conversation about it, and it is important to have the space to speak about your values and what is bothering you. This requires trust between your team members. “When we create trust on our team, we create space to have lightly vulnerable conversations, which lays the groundwork to have very vulnerable conversations without becoming defensive; we are able to engage in healthy discussions around sensitive topics,” says Wood. 

She brings up the following example: If one of your values is honesty, you can say to your team, “this isn’t resounding with me because it conflicts with my value of honesty, and I don’t feel we’re being honest here.” This opens the door for further conversation. 

If you feel your team is not supportive of open and vulnerable conversations, Wood suggests considering who else in the organization is. And if you can’t think of someone, perhaps it is up to you, the communications professional, to lead the way by creating that trust and space to have vulnerable conversations within the team. 

The importance of defining our values 

Doing the work to clearly identify our personal values will make it easier to navigate through these uncomfortable situations. “When you are clear on your values you can articulate what doesn’t feel right,” says Wood. 

She also explains that clearly defined values or understanding what drives you in life, can help you to set boundaries and make decisions in personal and professional situations. It becomes clear what it is you should do, and in today’s highly charged socio-political climate filled with tension, negativity and uncertainty, clarity is a welcome state of mind.

Kelly Wood is a strengths and solutions-based life design coach and facilitator. She has her Graduate Certificate from Royal Roads University in Advanced Coaching Practices. She is an Erickson certified Life Coach, NLP Master Practitioner, is certified in Strengths Deployment Inventory and is an Emotional Intelligence 2.0 certified facilitator. Kelly’s primary values are love, ease, courage, community and authenticity.

Jenny Spurr is a communications strategist and public relations professional based in Canmore, Alberta. She loves working with the community, and has over a decade of experience managing communications campaigns, coordinating media events and building community partnerships.  Jenny founded Perch Communications in 2020 to help small businesses and non-profits rise above their competition through a combination of content creation, media outreach and public relations.

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