Thursday, June 11, 2009

Conflicts At Work

Fights, conflicts, disagreements – it’s one of the sad realities of the workplace. It’s not only undesirable, it’s actually inevitable when sinners work together...even justified ones. You might work in a relatively peaceful environment but you’re never free from conflict. It seems to me that there’s a fair amount of conflict and disagreement at my workplace in recent weeks. Mind you, not the kind that’s destructive or irreparable - just more than desired or productive. Perhaps it’s a result of stress - business is tight, projects are critical and sometimes it seems like there’s no room for error.

Why do these conflicts occur? James 4 offers one possible reason -

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.

James is saying that many fights and quarrels arise from selfish desires and from inner conflict within our hearts.

But that's not the case for every conflict. Sometimes, one or all parties in a conflict may well-intended, yet may respond sinfully in other ways. For instance, in arguing for our position on an issue, are we being dismissive of other points of view? Are we failing to acknowledge the contribution of our colleagues? Worst still, could we be sinfully judging our co-workers by assuming ill-motive on their part?

How should we respond? Better yet, how should I respond in the midst of my situation? Here are a few questions I’m pondering for my part –

How can I speak more gently when all my tendencies are to the contrary?
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

How can I encourage my co-workers by speaking hope rather than despair?
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

How have I contributed to conflict by my lack of leadership or poor example?

How does this challenge help me see more clearly my insufficiency and spur me on to count on the sufficiency of Christ?


Red Letter Believers said...

i love your use of scripture
"What causes quarrels?"

How many times do we ask this a week...and yet we have the answer.

love your thoughts!

Sam Van Eman said...

I hope things ease up for you, ESI.

Listening would be the biggest challenge for me. Listening to the other party, to ourselves, to God in the midst, and then to what the quarrel might disclose about the company or organization in a constantly changing culture.

I took a course on organizational behavior a fears ago and remember being surprised by how a quarrel among janitors, for example, might actually be symptomatic of a problem among the executives in the same company. Good listening uncovers this and helps the company deal with root problems.

Fascinating stuff.

Craver Vii said...

It has been surprisingly painful to see where some conflict has come from, but I am grateful for lessons I have learned, plus sweet reconciliation.

Every Square Inch said...

David - thanks for the encouragement. On matters of our heart, scripture is not ambiguous, is it?

Sam - slowing down and listening is definitely a challenge for me as well. If something scripture teaches us, it's that janitors and executives are equally prone to sins of the heart - pride, selfish desires.

Craver - in the situation I'm dealing with, it's less about my own personal conflicts but just seeing conflict break out all around me and not knowing what to do about it. I have realized though, my own heart of anxiety and impatience has set a poor example for others - I have not sown hope and much more growth needed in my own life.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes. It's amazing how sensitive and perceptive what I'm calling here the human spirit is.

When I'm struggling with my attitude with someone for maybe what I think are good reasons (or a good reason), I can close my spirit toward them, and they pick that up. But that's not the way of Christ.

So I must work at loving them as myself, and doing to them as I would want them to do to me.

Good questions and thoughts here, ESI. Good to think through this in the way you set forth here.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted - thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I think closing ourselves to others even when we don't express it in words, is evident in our attitude toward them

Halfmom said...

So funny, Ted and I had a several email exchange about this post but I didn't realize that I'd never actually left you a comment on how much I liked it!

You are right, even when we do everything within our power to prevent and resolve conflict, even with other believers, it surely happens. I think the hard part for me is then waiting for the Holy Spirit to resolve the issues. I hate conflict, especially with other believers and I'm not patient on waiting for the Holy Spirit to work to bring about reconciliation I'm afraid.

Red Letter Believers said...

Don't know if you noticed, but we featured this at High Calling Blogs


Every Square Inch said...


thanks, appreciate the feature. I hope the post blesses others