Conflict and confrontation are not my strong suit. I much prefer when things go well and people get along even when mistakes and obstacles must be overcome. Unfortunately, this is not the way it works. People have different opinions. People make mistakes. People have different personalities. And they don’t always get along. Conflict seems to be inevitable.
As a leader and manager, I am faced with conflict on a regular basis. I don’t have a choice to ignore it in hopes that the problems will just go away. I often have to confront conflict to help bring about resolution and to hopefully be an agent for positive change.
The Bible gives some pointers for handling conflict between believers in Matthew 18:15-20 which may give some insight for handling conflict in the secular workplace. Here are the pointers from Jesus:
1. Try to resolve the conflict just between the two parties in conflict (v. 15). Don’t bring anyone else into the conflict if it can be resolved first.
2. Bring the conflict to one or two other believers (v. 16). If the conflict cannot be resolved face-to-face in step 1, the Bible mandates trying to bring the conflict to a resolution through the help of a couple of believers.
3. Take the conflict before the church (v. 17). If all else fails, the Bible tells us to bring the conflict before the church. If the conflict cannot be resolved then the person may be removed from the church.
In the secular business world, I’m not always dealing with fellow believers. In reality, the construction industry can be full of some rather colorful and rough personalities. Having said this, I believe these standards from scripture can be helpful for handling conflict in the workplace. As leaders in the business world, here are some ideas for handling conflict:
1. Encourage face-to-face conversations between the conflicting parties. Often times, people are misunderstood. A meeting of this type should provide an opportunity for both parties to get their frustrations on the table. With reasonable individuals and situations, conflict can often be resolved here.
2. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a mediator involved. Here’s where I would suggest getting involved along with another manager. If the two parties in conflict are let by different individuals, it would make sense to get the other manager involved. The managers should facilitate a discussion in an effort to bring resolution. This may take a couple of meetings, but it shouldn’t drag out.
3. If all else fails HR (Human Resources) and higher level leadership may need to get involved to drive a resolution. The may mean a change in assignment(s) for one or both parties. Or it may represent a more drastic transition towards other employment opportunities inside or outside the company.
4. In all cases, rumors should be avoided. As leaders, managers should squash any rumors. Rumors only lead to further conflict.
Handling conflict can be a real challenge, but leaders must deal with it head on. I wish I could say I always get it right. I’m certainly challenged and stretched by this topic.
What tips would you add for leaders to follow in handling workplace conflict?