If you have been in leadership for any length of time, you have had to deal with employee conflicts amongst your team.  Some of the issues are trivial, others substantial, but what do you do to fix these problems? 

The source of most conflict in the workplace flows from one specific area – Motivations.

We assess motivations as part of our tools in helping companies hire and evaluate talent.  Motivations are an interesting aspect of our psyches.  They are deeply seated and have the power to drive behaviors, decision-making, and more.  The difficulty of motivations is that they are difficult to determine from simply interacting with someone.  Maybe if you work with someone for a handful of years you could approximate their motivational pattern.

All of us have 6 common motivators of different intensities – you can learn about them here.  The conflict in the workplace occurs when you have two people with opposite patterns.  For instance, if you have a high Theoretical on your team, they will always be looking for new ways of doing things.  Conversely, if you have a high Traditional on that same team, the Traditional is going to push back against changing the status quo.  At some point, there is a good chance they will be involved in a decision where each of them will come at a solution from completely different viewpoints.

This contradictory viewpoint is where the conflict materializes. It often spills out to statements about changing things for no apparent reason, or you fight all forms of change.  There are others, but you see where this conflict takes root and now the conflict grows.

The solution is for each of them to know the other’s motivational pattern.  Once elucidated, each person understands the basis of the other’s decision making.  Now each person can appreciate the starting point of the other person’s perspective without having the decision process devolve into an argumentative state.  That appreciation often leads to successful, thoughtful decisions which have more buy-in from the different people.

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That is a tough question since I think values are primarily hardwired into each of us.  We assess this trait in sales candidates – call them motivations.  Each person tends to have two of these motivators that drives their behaviors (some people have 3 primary motivators).

We have assessed salespeople who were in slumps, who were unemployed and who were candidates.  These are stressful situations that should impact their values.  When we had the opportunity to assess the same people at a later date (years later), we did not see an appreciable change in their values/motivations.  Granted, this was no scientific study, but rather a consistent observation.

BusinessWeek.com provides this article – Value-Based Motivation – that discusses how values change in a recession.

One thing that makes motivation particularly difficult to manage is that individuals differ significantly in what they value and events can change what they value. What is very rewarding for some individuals, say, a day of golf with the boss or even an all-expenses-paid vacation trip to Hawaii, may not be seen as a reward by others. The same thing goes for praise by the boss and most forms of recognition.

Recessions can have a significant impact on what people value. Not surprisingly, job security, and financial rewards tend to become more important in periods of recession. It is particularly important that organizations skillfully manage these two drivers of employee motivation during recessions. How they manage them needs to be fine-tuned to the business strategy and how a company is affected by the recession.

Interesting point in that recessions have a global impression – the recession is outside of my control so my motivations are influenced towards monetary and security rewards.  That seems like a logical assumption…perhaps a macro-level influence like a global recession can sway motivations.

As a manager, it is important to know what motivates your salespeople and what rewards them on an individual basis.  This point is valid no matter what the economy is or isn’t doing.  These two factors provide the beginning of a roadmap to gaining the most production out of your sales team.

If you haven’t discovered these motivators in your current team, may I suggest a test assessment?