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January 2020

Why You’re Arguing With Your Colleagues, and What To Do About It


The “workplace” is often fraught with unspoken, or sometimes very loudly spoken, tension. It’s rare – and precious – that one finds a cohesive team environment, with good leadership, that is at once productive and fun to be in. Most businesses operate under the assumption that “people are professionals and we hire professional people”, therefore there’s no problem: people will get on with it. But the fact remains that the lived experience of the majority of employees is precisely the opposite of this. We find certain people are unbearable to work with, and we don’t understand the causes, we just feel it; this friction causes untold problems for the operational efficiency and creativity.




Well, a simplistic answer might be that we, as human mammals, are social and emotional creatures. Therefore, it’s inevitable that in large groups, there will be conflicts and disagreements between different “factions”. However, this is partly missing the point. It’s not what we all share that causes these conflicts. Nor is it what makes us different externally – except in the case of extremely prejudiced outliers. No, more often than not, it is something deeper and more internal that causes these rifts, something that is rarely truthfully acknowledged at the workplace: our motivations.


When I say motivation, I am not referring to “ra ra” motivation: pep talks, quarterly financial goals, quirky bonus packages. I am referring to a deeper constructed value system that we all possess, but often don’t know even ourselves. It has been my “mission from God”, to quote the Blues Brothers, over the last 13 years to measure and accurately quantify these internal motivators. The results have been startling, and one of the best outcomes of discovering these internal drivers, is the resolution of workplace tensions and conflicts.




Let me start by laying out the basics. There are nine motivators within each of us. Each of them sits above the level of survival. In other words, once we get beyond food, shelter, warmth, water, etc, we begin to move on to these nine “secondary” motivators. But of course, to call them “secondary” is to undermine their power. These motivators are extremely powerful, and trying to go against them can have disastrous impact on our mental health and wellbeing, our energy levels, and our self esteem. But more on that later.


I should point out very clearly that this is not a psychometric system. You are not x motivator or y motivator, fixed, forever. Your motivators change over time as you grow and develop. In addition, we all have all nine motivators, but we simply have them in a priority order. For example, my number one motivator is Creator. It’s not my only motivator, but it’s my most powerful and tends to trump the others. Therefore, it’s often my most important, motivator. What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t just mean that I like to create things (most people could probably tell that about me anyway). It also means that I (a) am risk-friendly (b) am future-orientated & (c) results, not efficiency, driven (d) that I prioritise personal growth over achievements or even relationships. Now, these are not hard and fast rules, because as I said, a profile is made up of the nine motivators in order, and these can produce incredible combinations that actually reflect the nuance and complexity of the human interior. However, even this surface level single-motivator insight gives us a pretty strong idea of what drives me and how to make me happy. You see, understanding your motivators, whatreally drives you, provides a shared language to talk about our desires and wants in a work-appropriate way.


So, returning to the concept of conflict-resolution… how does this help? Well, when we understand the motivators more clearly, we not only understand ourselves better, but we understand other people and their motivations. Certain motivators are opposed, or seemingly so. For example, the Defender motivator values security and regularity. They are risk-averse. They are past orientated. They prioritise relationships over everything else. And they are efficiency over results, process over productivity. The Defender naturally conflicts with the Creator’s desire to change things and take risks to develop new ideas or methodologies. However, when both parties are aware of the motivations of the other, it leads to the first step in the process of breaking down these barriers. It also gives people a non-personal, non-accusatory language to speak about their differences. For example: The Creator might be very frustrated that the Defender is always squashing / throwing out their ideas. However, if the Creator knows that person is a Defender, they can approach them in a different way: “Hey, I know that we need to be careful and not take too many risks, but if this idea works, it could actually yield us more financial security.” Or, the other way around, the Defender could approach the Creator: “Hey, I know that you’re a really creative person, but right now, the R&D budget is getting tighter and tighter, so maybe we should explore some options together that we know will get approved before committing to further development?”


This is only the beginning, the “tip of the iceberg” as it were. But it shows clearly that conflicts in the workplace are almost never about the decisions or situations themselves, they are about the underlying value system that is derived from our motivation. When our key motivators are blocked, we can become very de-motivated and unhappy very quickly. If we are Creator motivators working in an accountancy firm, for example, that will be a very tough environment to thrive in, because our creativity will constantly be being checked and limited. Similarly, a Defender motivator is unlikely to have much joy in a risky tech-start up!


So, how can you discover your motivators? Well, we have a tool, the Motivational Map, which allows you to discover your motivators with pin-point accuracy. But, you can also discover it yourself, or get close to it, by doing a few simple exercises. I have created a nine-part blog series Unlocking Motivation, to help take you through this process. It’s completely free, and will tell you a hell of a lot about the Maps and what they’re all about. To get started, you can go to part 1 here.


Alternatively, for a deeper dive into the language and metrics of motivation, as well as a Motivational Map code, you can buy Mapping Motivation: Unlocking The Key to Employee Energy and Engagement.







Interview with a BP #7: Sonia Gavira

'It’s a financial and time commitment that you have to be ready for and you need to be clear who your target market is going to be. But it is really rewarding seeing others realise how amazing the information that the Maps gives you is.'

Becoming a Business Practitioner is a big step, but the rewards are also tremendous. We wanted to speak with our BPs and get a sense of what they felt the biggest challenges and rewards of being a BP were, as well as foreground the amazing work they do. This interview with Sonia Gavira is our seventh instalment, revealing the secrets of life as a BP and the incredible difference they make in the Maps community and beyond. 

Sonia gavira

Sonia’s journey with Motivational Maps began when she met Susannah Brade-Waring at an Employee Engagement event organised by someone at Merlin. ‘I had just finished working on a global project of engagement for Ford Motor Company and they’d asked me to present to a group of local leaders interested in engagement. I sat next to Susannah we immediately hit it off – it’s easy to do with her!’


HR Searcher

As might be expected of a Searcher, the real moment of connection with the Maps came when Sonia received some feedback for the work she’d done:

'I have recently licensed some people who are loving the Maps and really starting to use them in their business - one of them thanked me and said that she had nearly given up her business and that the work with the Maps has given her a new lease of life.’

As someone licensed in a number of tools – Myers Briggs, True Colors, Disc, PIAV, Strenghtscope to name just a few – Sonia found herself experiencing the same feelings that many others have expressed on first encountering the Map: ‘Not another tool!’ However, her concerns were quickly soothed: ‘A little while after the event, Susannah contacted me about Motivational Maps. I really liked Susannah, so I did it despite misgivings and found the information really interesting. It was talking to me about where I was in that moment and resonated deeply.’

It turned out Sonia’s motivation was declining. ‘And I knew why - I no longer had a huge project that was making a huge difference (Searcher). I no longer had that community of coaches globally (Friend). And I was starting to think I might have to go back into employment (Spirit) in order to keep some form of regular income.’ Sonia’s next remark is intriguing, because it points towards the therapeutic power of the Maps: ‘The Map really was telling me my story as I was living it then.’ Another way to word this might be it was reflecting her real story and journey, which is what therapists naturally do with their clients in order to help them grasp their narrative.

'What it also told me,’ Sonia continues. ‘Was that my dislike of talking about myself and putting myself in the limelight (Star was then my lowest motivator), was getting in the way - how could I go out and do the work I wanted to do if I was reluctant to promote myself?’

It’s not only the drivers that speak volumes and ‘tell the story’ but also the lower motivators. In some ways, we can get more information on the ‘way forward’ from a difficult situation by looking at the lowest motivator than the highest. Or, at least, that was the case for Sonia, as she underwent a transformation: ‘I set out to work on that and reframe how I saw promoting myself, in a way that would plug into what really drives me. So I said to myself: ‘Sonia, if you want to make a difference, build a community, and keep your independence, you have to talk about yourself and what you offer. That way, talking about yourself will help you make a difference, build a community, and keep you working for yourself.’ Sonia uses the Maps ‘language’ to help communicate with her inner psyche. The results are fascinating and surprising: ‘Six months later, I redid my own map and the Star motivator had moved up to number 4! That is what then sold me on maps and that’s what lead me to train with Susannah to become a BP.’

'I now use the maps as part of my intake session - the session that I use to get to know my client and set up the coaching contract. And what I’ve found is that most of my clients want to repeat the Map towards the end of our working together as they sense that there has been a change. The maps are also becoming an integral part of my work in employee engagement and leadership development where we explore motivation as the missing piece in engagement and leadership performance. The piece which has always been there as an intangible and now can be tangible.’

You can check out videos of Sonia Gavira explaining the concepts behind motivation and discovering our inner drives here. To discover your motivation, click here.