Conflict Part 2
Conflict Part 2
Ways to Restore Trust
Suzanne sent in a question about conflict and personality differences in the workplace. Here is her question: How does one deal with personality conflicts between leaders and great difficulty gelling as a team as well as a lack of trust with one another?
In our previous Q&A we answered the first part of Susan’s question about personality differences.
Today we will address the second part of the question dealing with conflicts that naturally occur on any team and how to effectively settle these disputes.
Why Conflict Occurs
The book of James speaks openly and directly about the source of relational conflict. It says:
“What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight.” James 4:1-2
James doesn’t beat around the bush. He plainly explains that our selfish cravings and desires, our envy, jealousy and ego are to blame for all relational conflicts.
Whether it’s desire for power, influence or control, whether it’s jealousy over someone else’s lifestyle, marriage, children or external appearance or whether it’s a craving for financial gain or someone else’s job, all of these, when not kept in check, will ignite conflict.
When conflict occurs, our natural reaction is to look for the “guilty party,” and if we are honest, most of us do not look in the mirror first. James 4:8 tells us that if there are quarrels among us, we should look at “self” first: “Come near to God, and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners. Purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Matthew 7:5 tells us we should “…first take the log out of [our] own eye, and then [we] will see clearly to take the speck out of [our] brother's eye.”
Since it takes two to tango, we must be willing to consider and recognize our contribution to the conflict. Only then is there hope for true reconciliation.
And that’s where most of us fail. It is unbiblical, and very poor judgment, not to address the issue directly with the individual who hurt, upset or disappointed us. God’s Word leaves no room for discussion. In Matthew 18:15 we are commanded: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (emphasis added).
What causes most damage in the workplace and among teams, friends and families, is our failure to live by this command. Failure to confront one-on-one will erode trust, cause pain and cultivate resentment.
Psalm 17:9 says: “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” Once we’ve addressed the issue one-on-one, we don’t have the freedom to share our concerns with others. Instead, we should pray for that individual, make amends, strive for peace and ultimately forgive. If we continue to talk about the concern and the person, it only reveals our unforgiveness.
One-on-One plus Witness(es)
Because the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves, He knew that one-on-one confrontation may not be enough. Some of us are just too stubborn to see our sinful ways. God’s Word provides direction for moments when we must address the same issue with the same individual again. In Matthew 18:16, Jesus says: “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
Because conflict is emotionally charged and can be very subjective, it may be helpful to have one or two wise friends or co-workers to help moderate. Objective voices of reason may be what’s needed to bring the conflict to a full closure. Once again, the once confrontation happens, there should be no more whispers.
I’m Just Concerned…
Too many of us use the “I’m just concerned about so and so” as permission to discuss personal and or work-related issues without the person being present. It’s equivalent to the good old request, “Please pray for so on so, they are struggling.” We are not really concerned. We are not really asking for genuine prayer. We are simply looking for permission to air our grievances without having to go through the painful process of actually confronting the individual and working it out. We are looking for a sympathetic ear that will listen and validate our hurts and resentments—ultimately giving us permission to continue feeling bitter.
Let It Go
Reconciliation and restoration are really the ultimate goals of biblical conflict resolution. The Father, through Jesus, reconciled us to Himself, and He desires us to live in peace with one another.
There are times when we encounter people that refuse to be reconciled. If that happens, and we have done all we can to mend the relationship, we should look at Romans 12:17-19 as a great next step:
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’
Our job is to let go. God’s job is to exercise justice.
Is It a Legitimate Grievance?
In our previous blog, we addressed the issue of personality differences, which can be the cause of frequent “perceived” conflict between individuals.
What often happens is we regard character and personality differences as conflict, where there really is none.
For example, someone who is a High C (highly conscientious person that cares about details) may critique or point errors in our work. All they are doing is tapping into the way they are naturally wired, but what we may be seeing is someone who is trying to criticize us.
Someone who is highly interactive, a High I we would call them, may be talking a lot during meetings, sharing tons of ideas, giving verbal feedback to ideas of others. That talkative personality can be perceived as wanting to steal the spotlight, not allowing others to speak or share ideas.
Someone who is rather quiet and task oriented (a High S personality) may need much more time to process ideas. They also care more about getting their work done than being a busy bee at work chatting it up with everyone. We could perceive this individual as rude, aloof and impolite.
In all reality, none of these individuals we just described have done anything wrong. But because of our perception and sensitivities to certain things, we may create an artificial conflict where there really is none.
Allow me to leave you with one final thought from Ephesians 4:31-32, which requires no additional commentary: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”