When Conflict Arises...

Our current human condition naturally creates conflict. Rooted in selfish behavior, inflated egos, and prideful power struggles, all workplace environments will face conflict. Great leaders understand and plan for effective resolution of this inevitable workplace issue.

Besides bringing our own flawed human nature to work each day, conflict can often arise due to poor communication and lack of clarity. We continually talk about clarity being a leaders best friend. Communicating clearly and often with regards to expectations and assignments will result in less opportunity for conflict. Many times, conflict comes from either lack of information, poor information, or missing information.

Here are 3 ways leaders can not only handle, but solve conflict:

Having a well written, clear and concise contract for employees creates a "proactive process" for workplace behavior as well as conflict resolution. It should include the expectations and benefits of personal behavior. Employees appreciate the social contract because it explains and reinforces the value of culture and a professional work environment. It provides clarity and safety. Again, when clarity goes up, anxiety goes down and performance goes up. Creating a social contract reduces the anxiety of the unknown.

Wise leaders listen first and talk second. Inappropriate behavior is often rooted in frustration caused by opposing ideas, stubbornness and ego.

Constructive communication many times can alleviate or even solve the problem. Again, much of conflict is based on some level of miscommunication of both roles and expectations. Actively listening to everyone will help you understand all the underlying interests, motivations, needs and concerns. Being able to "hear what isn’t being said" will allow you to get to the root cause of the conflict. Stay calm and solution driven. Make sure all parties "hear and are heard."

Creative brainstorming fosters collaboration and is an effective tool for reaching solutions. Many times both parties are after the same goal but are on two different roads. Find a way to "merge" through solution driven compromise.

Whether you work in a Christian environment or not, the Bible is clear about the human condition that creates conflict. James 4:1 says: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? Proverbs gives us three other causes for conflict. 13:10 tells us that where there is strife there is pride; 10:12 says hatred stirs up conflict and in 29:22 we are told anger does the same thing.

The Bible provides the proper behaviors that will lead to conflict resolution:

Proverbs 15:1 says a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Philippians 2:4 tells us to not look to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Ephesians 4:31 says to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

1 Peter 3:8-10 encourages us to be like-minded, to be sympathetic, to love one another, to be compassionate and humble. We are not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Instead we are to repay evil with blessing.

Finally, for those of you who as Christians, working in a environment that is less than Godly, never forget the sovereign power of your Father and his ability to provide. Many conflicts can be solved by praying for your enemies. Take strength and comfort in Proverbs 16:7 which tells us that when a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Great leaders understand conflict will happen and they do not avoid dealing with it. The ability to "recognize and resolve" conflict quickly and effectively is a tool that will serve you well.

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