Minimizing Conflict by Honoring Individual Needs
Nina Bruder is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Program, Class V and the Executive Director of Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas, which identifies promising, innovative, Jewish ideas in their early stages of organizational formation and nurtures them from start-up to sustainability. She can be reached at email@example.com.
I recently had the opportunity to apply a lesson learned from a family context to a work context.
My family celebrated an elder member’s milestone by performing a little “shtick” in honor of the occasion. In the planning, most of us wanted to keep it simple but my cousin wanted a more intensive effort. My brother suggested that we each prepare as much or as little as we wanted and gave my cousin the green light to do as much prep as she wanted. I would have tried to talk my cousin out of doing so much work, but my brother saw that she needed to do that in order to feel that she was making a real contribution. “Why should I care?” he counseled me, “let it go.” By honoring what we each needed to prepare, my brother minimized conflict, we each did what we needed to do, and the party and the shtick were a success.
That lesson helped inform a leadership moment for me in my work. I run a very small Jewish non-profit organization. As our senior leadership team began a new program planning process, it became clear that our program director and board chair had very different understandings of what prep work would be needed. The board chair wanted to minimize the amount of work while the program director wanted a more intensive effort.
With my brother’s lesson in my mind, I listened carefully first to what the board chair thought, then to what the program director wanted. I realized that there was no actual conflict, only different levels of analysis. I suggested that each person prepare as needed. I reframed the prep work not as choosing one person’s way over another’s or trying to convince one person to do what the other wanted, but rather minimized conflict by honoring the needs of each person.