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Elizabeth Fuss Arnott, SPHR  I have been working in Human Resources for 23 years. Since 2011, I have been certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).  I have a BA in English and a Master of Jurisprudence in Labor and Employment Law from Tulane Law School. I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband Luke and our cat, Poirot. I write about HR, non-profits, the art of managing people and Neurodiversity in the workplace. I'm available for employment, contract work, consulting, coaching and training virtually and in the Portland, OR area. Please email me at for more information. 

  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Arnott, SPHR

Using Shared Values for Conflict Resolution

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Rebekah worked intensely and fast. If you didn't do what she wanted fast enough, she'd usually just do it herself. She had been working in the organization for more than 10 years. She was deeply driven by the mission of the organization and client satisfaction was her goal. She was often described as the "hardest working person in the company."

But Rebekah created a lot of conflict. She had received no training as she moved her way up in the organization. Her tactics were brash, rushed and sometimes rude. We're not talking about harassment here - it was rude words and rushed tactics. Her staff often came to HR to complain about her, just as she came to HR to express frustration about her staff. While training was something that was consistently offered, it was a work in progress and those conflicts were not going to go away with one or two trainings. Both Rebekah and her staff needed to change their understanding of each other and the reasons behind their actions.

Both parties felt that the other's actions were deliberately focused on them. So with each individual, we broke it down:

1. Accept that you can only control your own actions, behaviors and responses. Even if you solve the conflict with this person, another person will come along that will irritate, offend or be rude to you. You are in charge of your own career and you can fully, 100% control your actions, behaviors and responses.

2. Uncover the possibility that it's not all about you. Nobody thinks as much about you as you do. Everyone has a whole lifetime of different experiences, problems and stresses that influence their behaviors. If you think about it, most people don't have the time to think about how to irk the other person on purpose. Do you purposely irritate someone else? Probably not, right? It's pretty likely that it's not about you.

3. Discuss possible reasons for the other person's behavior. What do you think could have sparked the behavior in question? Do you think it's possible that the other person was feeling an enormous amount of stress? Do you think it's possible that perhaps the other person wasn't feeling well? Do you think it's possible that the other person was feeling overwhelmed? You don't need to come to any conclusions. You only need to introduce reasonable doubt, so to speak, that the issue is about them. In the moment, you don't know the motives, so let's assume it's one of these many other possibilities instead of you.

4. Find and build on shared values. Have you noticed how the other person is always talking about our clients? That's important to you, too, right? Tell me about why you work here. That's something that you both have in common - you are both driven by our purpose and organizational mission. When you are interacting with the other person, you can keep that in the back of your mind - your shared values. Your shared purpose in working here. That might help to focus on the bigger picture as you are working together.

5. Brainstorm possible responses for future interactions. Let's go through one of your common interactions and see if we can come up with a good response. Role play. Model empathy.

6. Encourage kindness, openness and discussion. Encourage both people to communicate more openly in a positive, private way (not in front of others): "Gosh your tone really caught me off guard - I know you didn't mean it, but you came off as really harsh." "I know you are in a hurry, but I need to take a moment to do this correctly. Could you give me a minute?" The other person may not know how their words are landing on others. Make them aware. Say please and thank you. Show empathy. Remember, you can only control your actions - so choose to be the one that's willing to change your perspective.

When you approach this with both people, chances are at least one of them will keep it in their minds and change their perspective going forward. That one person can make the difference for both of them. They also learn how to work better with challenging people going forward - a career tool that can never be undervalued.

While shared values are most common in mission-driven organizations, this can also be used in organizations with a clear purpose, or even in departments with a clear purpose - to bring people together.


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