A wise man that I follow regularly is Rick Boxx, a former banker, in the Kansas City area. He writes a daily piece called Integrity Moment. I thought today’s piece was particularly on point as we think about the various conflicts faced in the workplace and wisdom in gaining resolution. It is titled Conflict Resolution Wisdom. He wrote today:
“One common counseling call I receive is about conflict in the workplace. Usually someone has been slighted in some way and they would rather complain about the person rather than actually address the problem!
Fortunately, Jesus knew this was a common problem even in His day, and, He had a solution. In Matthew 18 Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
If you have a conflict with someone in your workplace, don’t gossip about them, instead go to them one on one.”
As Rick says, the fastest way to resolving conflict is by addressing it directly with the individual involved. For some of us who are conflict averse, this will be hard. Yet, even for those who aren’t quite so sensitive, this wisdom often escapes us. The offending person may not even be aware of the offense. Regardless of the circumstances, when we perceive a wrong being done by which we are affected, Let’s not make it the subject of water cooler conversation / gossip. Rather, go directly to the instigator and discuss with them how their actions have affected you.
There is another proverb that provides a word of caution in this space. Proverbs 26:17 offers this wisdom: “Interfering in someone else’s argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears.“ So stick to addressing your own problems. If you’re invited in by someone who’s been offended, coach that person with the wisdom from Matthew 18. Knowing that Matthew 18 addresses conflict within the church, how does this translate to the workplace? In very much the same way. Go one-on-one first. Then, if that doesn’t work, take a mutually trusted co-worker with you to try to resolve. If that doesn’t work, take it to your supervisor or manager and let them work it out.
Hurtful gossip about another’s attitudes or behaviors in the workplace does nothing to build the harmony that is needed for all to achieve ultimate productivity. If it is worth addressing, go directly to the person involved. In many cases, I’ve found that before I have to go to the “offender” my own sensitivities need to be checked. Am I being thin skinned or hyper-sensitive? Am I looking for an offense from that department or person? What is the condition of my own heart before I address an offense? Have I taken the 4×6 beam out of my own eye before trying to help the next person remove the toothpick from his eye?
When you go to work today, do you ask yourself how you might contribute to harmony today? Even when some places seem to be organized to have departments compete with each other, ask yourself how you might be able to compete for the constructive good of the whole organization. Cross-functional competition can sometimes improve the performance of the whole. Think about a relay race where runners are running to achieve their best time to position the team to win. There may be internal competitions between the relay team members, but everyone trying to beat out the others, brings in the best performance for the team.
In the case of conflict in the workplace, internal competitions, and differing perspectives on approach, are important for the organization to hear and leverage the best approaches. Don’t be too quick to take offense, and let your conversation always be gracious, seasoned with thoughtful wisdom, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Reduce the conflict, reduce stress, add years to your life.