How to Cope When Your Values Clash with Your Co-workers

November 1st, 2023

By John Patterson

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

In an increasingly polarized world, workplaces are becoming a microcosm of the broader societal divide. As we spend a significant portion of our lives at work, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves in situations where our core values clash with those of our co-workers. The result? A decline in respect, engagement, and productivity. But a recent study from The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business offers a glimmer of hope for “value minorities” in the workplace.

The Challenge of Values Clash in the Workplace

The study, led by Tracy Dumas, delves into the challenge faced by those whose values, be they political, religious, or stemming from other significant life areas, do not align with the majority in their organization. These values are deeply rooted in one’s sense of self and are challenging to change. When value minorities perceive a lack of respect in their workplace, it negatively impacts their engagement and overall job performance.

The Power of Self-Disclosure in Overcoming Values Clash

The research uncovered a potent solution for value minorities struggling in the workplace: self-disclosure. Sharing personal information unrelated to conflicting values helps create a sense of connection with co-workers, fostering respect, and ultimately improving engagement.

Study Methodology and Key Findings

The study was conducted through various settings, including full-time employees, student project groups, and undergraduate students, with consistent results across the board. Participants were asked to imagine working closely with colleagues of the same rank and were categorized into two groups: those with conflicting values and those with similar values. The critical variable was whether they engaged in self-disclosure by discussing non-work topics.

Participants reported their perceptions of respect from colleagues, and their anticipated engagement in a significant group meeting related to a work project. The results demonstrated that self-disclosure significantly boosted engagement among value minorities by increasing the respect they expected from their colleagues.

Real-Life Application of Self-Disclosure

The importance of self-disclosure is not confined to controlled experiments. Real-life teams of undergraduate students were surveyed over a semester, with results mirroring those of the lab experiment. Team members noted that value minorities who engaged in self-disclosure were more engaged in group projects.

Humanizing Value Minorities

The magic of self-disclosure lies in its ability to humanize value minorities to their colleagues. People may feel uncomfortable when they don’t share values with their team, but finding common ground in everyday life experiences can create a connection. When we discuss our families, hobbies, or the latest movies we’ve enjoyed, it showcases that we are multi-faceted individuals, not solely defined by our differences.

Take Control of Your Workplace Experience

One of the most empowering aspects of self-disclosure is that it doesn’t require management intervention. If you’re a value minority in your workplace, you can take steps to improve your experience. By sharing aspects of your personal life that are unrelated to areas of disagreement, you can bridge the gap and foster a more respectful and engaged work environment.


Fostering a Culture of Comfort

While self-disclosure is a powerful tool, organizations must also play their part. Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing personal information is crucial. It’s not solely the responsibility of the individual; employers should actively encourage and support a culture of openness and respect.

In conclusion, the study offers valuable insights into coping with values clash in the workplace. By embracing self-disclosure and creating a culture of comfort, organizations and employees can work together to bridge divides and reap the benefits of diverse perspectives. Remember, you have the power to make a positive change in your workplace, one conversation at a time.


  1. Tracy L. Dumas, Sarah P. Doyle, Robert B. Lount. Self-Disclosure and Respect: Understanding the Engagement of Value MinoritiesOrganization Science, 2023; DOI: 10.1287/orsc.2021.15768

About the author:

John Patterson is an avid writer and researcher who delves into the latest scientific research. With an insatiable curiosity, he translates complex concepts into accessible narratives, allowing readers to embark on a journey of discovery. Through his work, John bridges the gap between experts and the public, igniting curiosity and inspiring meaningful conversations about scientific breakthroughs.

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