Conflict in the Workplace

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.

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Cost of Doing Business or Price of Integrity?

Here’s an interesting one that showed up in my mail today … From the Harvard Business Review Daily Stat, a summation of the effect on UK businesses of the laws prohibiting the payment of bribes in those regions that are corruption prone.

Here is the summary version … “After enactment of strict anti-bribery legislation in the UK a few years ago, sales of British firms in corruption-prone regions of the world grew 6 percentage points more slowly than those of comparable European firms, says Stefan Zeume of the University of Michigan. Moreover, UK companies operating in such regions displayed a drop in firm value after enactment of the law. Taken together, the findings suggest that bribes are indispensable for doing business in certain parts of the world, Zeume says.”

In it’s rawest form, the question being begged is whether our interests must be served at any cost or whether we are pleased to live with a heart of integrity. Is it right for those who have few scruples to succeed or should those who chose a path of integrity be the ones who are successful? There is discussion, even in today’s news about the legitimacy of the SuperPacs through which tens of millions of dollars are raised to influence a presidential election. Are we simply buying influence to achieve goals that are beneficial to our own interests or are we getting business done in the most expeditious method possible?

Our friend, King David, wrote often of these things in the Psalms. He challenged God as to why the wicked should prosper. He admitted in Psalm 73, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Woah! He had to catch himself because he was jealous of the Joneses who had attained their wealth through bad behavior. The prophet Jeremiah told God that he wanted to talk with Him about His form of justice. He goes on, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” So in the case of the University of Michigan paper, a similar question is asked, why does the UK enforce anti-bribery laws against me, as I watch those who are beyond the reach of those laws increase their net values gaining the business I can no longer pursue?

The Proverbs say “A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the cause of justice.” (17:23) It is interesting to me the path of bribery is an ancient path. Even the author of the UofM paper acknowledged the difficulty in finding real data on this problem because most of the under the table payments were unrecorded so that they couldn’t be tracked.

One of the classic examples of standing up for what one believes is right is Chick-fil-A’s model of closing on Sunday. Sunday is a day when many families go out to eat. Yet, Truett Cathy determined that he and his business would follow God’s command to keep the Sabbath day holy by closing and giving the employees a day of rest. So where is your line of integrity? Some of our systems still encourage a “bribery” approach to life. Giving the matre D’ a twenty dollar bill to ensure that we get the table with the view, paying service workers in cash so that they don’t have to claim it on their income taxes, the list goes on.

Job 36:18 says, “don’t let a large bribe turn you aside.” We should not be able to be bought. The other side of that instruction is that we should not be putting others into that decision predicament. Don’t be tempting someone to subvert their conscience because you offer them a “reward.” I’ve only mentioned a few things here. I’m sure you can come up with many more. Our society is heavily influenced by the power of wealth.  Where is your treasure?

Can you say with David, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, … Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you … Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me it is good to be near God.” Go to bed tonight with a clean conscience, give up trying to control the world around you. That’s really what this is all about, isn’t it?

Just a few things to think about.

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The Heart of Man Plans His Way … A Lesson from the Porcelain Throne

From time to time, my wife and I are complimented on the style and design of our home. While we are pleased with the way things turned out, there are some things that turned out better than we could have dreamed. As is usually the case, God uses the smaller / lesser things in life to remind us that our plans were completed with our ideas in mind but God had a better plan.

The lesson for today comes from the porcelain throne. No, not the one in the master bath, not the one in the guest bath, nor the one in the powder room. It is the stroke of genius we had in building a restroom in the lower garage. In our limited perspective we thought it would be good to have a facility there for easy access while we were caring for the Ponderosa. But there was another higher plan at work. Very likely the room receiving the most visitors in our home is the unfinished restroom in the lower level garage. Little did we know, at the time, that we would be hosting upwards of 100 high school kids in our barn each week for the summer meetings of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Guess what. Every week during the summer many kids and adults make the trek from the barn to the garage to use the restroom.

Now what is the lesson to be learned here? We have lots of plans for our stuff. Some of our stuff, we even consider “nice to have” or conveniences. Yet, if we’re living purposeful lives with a higher calling, our stuff becomes far more important than just serving our pleasure or comfort. You’d be surprised how little we have used that room over the course of nearly eight years of tending the Ponderosa.

The proverb begun in the title of this piece goes like this: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov 16:9) God can use even the simple things in life, indeed, the simple people, for His higher purposes. This is true of each one of us. Each of us was uniquely made (we even have a unique DNA) and as a result has a unique purpose in this life. There can never be another you, as the old song goes. You bring a unique perspective and combination of gifts to this world. How are you using those gifts? Have you felt like you don’t have much to contribute? Think again, because somebody out there needs you.

It’s true that we ought not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. But at the same time, we need to have a personal vision and purpose that is larger than ourselves. I can promise you that God has a great purpose in His overall plan for you. Praying today that you’ll feel blessed and be a blessing to others.

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Culture at Home and the Workplace

In my last post, I talked about the importance of words. We use them to encourage and build up as well as to berate and tear down. How we use our words to offer reproof and correction will determine whether they are received in a constructive sense. Much more can be written about words and the way we use them. But what does this have to do with culture?

There is a great deal of current discussion around culture. The culture of a workplace. In the home we tend not to call it culture, we refer to it as the environment or climate of the home. Effectively, however, these are very similar, if not the same thing. Culture tends to be defined by the integrity of the leadership, the trust and confidence placed in the employees, the expectations around work life balance, and many other factors. Similarly, in the home, the environment is often described as loving, trusting, supportive, etc. In both environments, trust is a key component. Can the leadership of the workplace or home be trusted. Will we be treated fairly and consistently is the question often asked.

The old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” is so true in this context. Our words have a very hollow and empty sound when our actions deliver a conflicting message. We can lead our teams to meet objectives. But if, after meeting those objectives, we declare a different set of rules for ourselves, trust is destroyed. Bonuses and commissions are classic areas of leadership missteps. Making commitments and then disregarding them destroys trust. Being a leader or a parent or a child who keeps their promises is critical to the success of relationships. In the same way, valuing relationships to the extent you are willing to put others ahead of yourself fosters trust.

This is not to say that some relationships are not healthy and should not be pursued. When we encounter people who are intent on using you to promote or satisfy their own needs, you should love that person, but from a distance. A culture of trust is a mutual and reciprocal thing. Even God at some point turns men over to their own desires, while He still loves them. Yet the abusive and offending person, needs to know that they are loved and when they choose to change their behavior, they will be welcomed back.

If you are a leader and/or parent, what are you doing to secure an environment or culture of trust? What is the cultural tone that is being set by the combination of your words and actions? The book of James says that faith without works is dead. So if we claim to have faith but don’t follow it up with our actions, our faith is of no value. In the workplace and the home, if our claims (words) aren’t followed by supporting actions, we become untrustworthy and we destroy the relationships that grease the wheels on which mutual love and respect are riding. I’m going to close this segment with a quote from the opening of Stephen R. Covey’s Speed of Trust.

“There is one thing that is common to every individual, team, family, organization, nation, economy, and civilization throughout the world – one thing if removed will destroy the most powerful government, the most successful business, the most thriving economy, the most influential leadership, the greatest friendship, the strongest character, the deepest love.

On the other hand, if developed and leveraged, that one thing has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity in every dimension of life. Yet it is the least understood, most neglected, and most underestimated possibility of our time. 

That one thing is trust.”

How are you doing in building an environment of trust in the workplace or in your family life? How would your family and team(s) describe your culture? We could go much further on this topic, but hopefully this will give us some things to consider. Have a great day!

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Words

Words are the way we communicate. With our words we build others up or tear them down. With our words we share what is on our hearts and make commitments. A popular saying says, “A man’s word is his bond.” In a day when we are increasingly prone to take each other to court, contractual relationships often call for performance bonds. Before we became a such litigious society, a man’s word was his bond. He personally assumed responsibility for carrying out his commitments. Men of character and integrity were known for their truth telling, for their reputation for delivering on their commitments, and for their careful use of words. Men and women of character and integrity are increasingly in the minority. When found they are like rare jewels and their words catch the listener’s ear.

Another saying we learned as children was “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We would utter this saying when others spoke ill of us. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth of the matter is that while the damage may be invisible for a period, harsh words, lies, gossip about us leave scars in our hearts. A biblical proverb says, “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.”

While it is comfortable to talk about such things in the context of childhood and childish behavior, how many people do you know who have had careers damaged by inappropriate words? How many business settings and, yes, indeed families, are dysfunctional because of harsh words, denigrating innuendo, unrelenting criticism, or disingenuous compliments? In many cases, it seems that we adults have simply refined the art of using words to promote our own selfish objectives, either to ingratiate ourselves to the listener or to discredit another and put ourselves in a better light. How often have we heard the words, “Well, [so and so] is doing the same thing!”

We become so infatuated with achieving the goals we set for ourselves that we become blinded to the paths we use to accomplish those objectives. We begin to say things and behave in ways that start us down a slippery slope of being crafty with our words which slides into half-truths and ultimately placing ourselves into positions where we have to cover up previous statements with more lies. Then we become the scoundrel and villain who goes about with a tongue that can’t be trusted, who winks with his eyes, sends different signals with his feet and motions another message with his fingers. This proverb (6:11) may be where crossing one’s fingers behind his back got started. Crossing your fingers behind your back while making a statement to someone, presumably cancels out your need to tell the truth or to deliver on the commitment.

How much better to be a person who with all sincerity builds up others. A word aptly spoken is like jewelry of gold set in silver. How can you go about encouraging the next person? How can you spur another on to outbursts of great work, acts of love, and genuine respect for others? Those of us reading  these words have developed habits in the way we use our native language. Do our habits need to change? Do we need to learn new ways to use our words? Are you a person whose words are trusted or do you need help in the art of choosing your words? Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Probably each one of us can make some positive shift in the way we respond to others with our words.

Blessings!

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Ethics and Character

When we think about an ethical person we think about someone who has character. One can look up lists of virtues by which we define character, but at their best those are partial lists. When we think about someone having strong character, the list of positive traits seems almost endless. Yet when we think about people of character, we think about the whole person and what that person represents.

Sometimes we say that person is a character. Most often when we say it like that, it is not meant in a positive sense. The likely intention was to say that person is eccentric or different. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character and character produces hope. What is this character trait or quality that we use to describe people? In particular, what is this character that produces hope?

Looking back to the previous blog entry, integrity is a component of character. The kind of integrity that engenders trust. A person who can be trusted brings hope to those around him in a world where trust is such a rare commodity. It boggles the mind to think about all the laws that have been written to build fences because we don’t trust people. Even something as simple as the open meetings regulations, when violated by an offline conversation or email draws the attention of the press with cries of foul play and distrust of the people involved. We live in a world where the worst possible ulterior motives are inferred upon well meaning people. We have become a society in which we have lost hope in heart and soul of our neighbors, whom we are to love as much as we love ourselves.

Solomon said we should listen to our father’s instruction and should not forget our mother’s training because they will be like jewelry adorning your neck and a wreath of honor around your head. There are words of wisdom and positive behavioral patterns that should be ingrained in young people as they are growing up. The time for character building is when our children are at home.

In his book, “Courageous Leadership,” Bill Hybels talked on the subject of hiring the right people. Initially, he looked first and foremost for competent people, then he examined their character qualifications, being somewhat forgiving for minor flaws under the assumption that he would be able to work with the person to correct any flaws that might be identified. Competence was the key to any hiring decision. Over time he learned that, in fact he had the two qualities reversed. Character flaws in a person in their mid-thirties to early forties, were nearly impossible to correct. Shortcomings in competence could be handled through training and education.

Thought and behavior patterns are set at a very early age. It is unlikely that, short of a life transforming embracing of the Holy Spirit, anyone might significantly alter thought and behavior patterns set in the heart early in a person’s life. Our default responses will be those we learned in our homes. Paul, writing to the church at Pilippi, talked about humility of heart and that we ought to think about such things as whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

Think about a culture where leaders led out of humility and focused their leadership on the pursuit of wisdom, were committed to telling the truth, were morally upright, who drew people to unity rather than being divisive using inflammatory language, and the list goes on. Such a leader will show strength of character and inspire hope whether it is a father, mother, first line manager, executive, or team member being a positive role model to peers and superiors.

Who comes to your mind as a person of strong character? Is there someone whose life patterns you would like to emulate? Are you one of those people that others see as a role model? Think about it. Are there some things that need to change? Could a mentor help you find that path? What kind of people do you hang with? It’s often said that we’re known by the company we keep. Paul said, “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Enough for one day. More on ethics, integrity and character to come.

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Integrity – The Blessing

integrity1When looking to the topic of ethics, the word integrity quickly comes to mind. Defined as “wholeness, an unimpaired moral state, honest and sincere, by the Oxford American Dictionary. Closely related to integrity is the word integrated.  When we live our lives in wholeness, it would seem to mean that we live integrated lives; lives which are seamless from one setting to the next. Our mindset needs to tell us, who I am today and with these people is who I am tomorrow in a completely different setting. Integrity carries the tone of honesty and predictability, that which the child shown in the picture can trust.

When we act with integrity, we build trust. We are living our lives in concert with the person we say we are, or perhaps even desire to be. Ethical people live lives of integrity. Does this mean that we never make a misstep, or never do things we wished we had not done? No, we all make mistakes, none of us is perfect. But neither should we be trying to be all things to all people nor do we even need to agree with all in our company. This does not mean we need to be disagreeable. Not everyone, not even my readers, all agree with everything I say or do. Yet, hopefully, they know who I am and what my view will be on certain matters. Hopefully, most will sense that after hearing each other out, we have the option to agree to disagree without losing our composure.

How is your integrity? Are others blessed because of your stability? Do your spouse and your family know you? How about your team at work, including your boss? How do you present yourself in various settings? Is it possible that you might think more highly of yourself than you ought … putting yourself and your interests ahead of others? Are you the same person at home that you are at work? I’m sometimes bewildered as people involved in violent crimes are described as gentle and loving individuals. Then I remember, two things: (1) there, but for the grace of God, go I, and (2) many, many people live duplicitous, compartmentalized lives. Listen, we are all sinful men capable of the most heinous acts that destroy our own lives and the lives of others. We are prone to utter words that wound and destroy relationships.

As we continue our dialog regarding ethics, who you are as a person and how you value others will become evidence of your ethics. Are you blessing others rather than tearing them and their work down? Are you being generous and genuine with your words? Is anyone wondering which personality got out of your bed this morning? What does it take to make yourself look good in the eyes of others?

Proverb of Solomon:  A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Therein lies the blessing of integrity. One can choose to be consistently negative, by continually berated and badmouthing others. Or, we can choose to refresh and look out for others with our honesty and our supportive words and behavior. The choice is ours. He who refreshes others, will himself be refreshed.

Hoping you’re being refreshed.

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