Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

-Colossians 3:13 ESV

If you stay long enough at a school or other type of career, you will inevitably encounter some sort of conflict. This is a part of human nature because we are all unique and have different opinions. Often times we have strong opinions about a particular topic. We feel like we need to stand up for ourselves when we are wronged or see others being taken advantage of. The truth is that conflict may always be in your organization at some level, but how you choose to work through conflict with your colleagues is within your control. Your colleagues will respect and view you as a leader if you show humility, grace, and forgiveness in the face of conflict.

What to Do When Conflict Comes Your Way

There will come a time when a colleague, parent, administrator, or family member says something that you disagree with. This could be to you directly, through the grapevine, in an email, or through social media. The immediate response we all have is to march right up to that person or email them back and let me know exactly what we think of their comments or actions toward us. While this is certainly what we would like to do, we might say things ourselves in the heat of the moment that we will regret as well.

When you get into a conflict, I would urge you to use the 24-hour rule before responding. The 24-hour rule simply means that you take some time to reflect on what you or the other people have done or said to determine the best course of action. In the heat of the moment, we may say or do something that we cannot take back. Waiting 24 hours allows you to regroup, gather more information, and respond appropriately. This does not mean you still won’t be fired up after 24 hours, but I am certain you will respond more professionally if you take some time to think about what you will do next.

When you are ready to respond, I suggest a meeting in person with just the two of you. Responses through email are not always effective because sarcasm and tone are harder to pick up. When you are in the same room with this person, you are more likely to resolve the conflict and move on.

Admit When You Mess Up

There will be times when you have wronged someone else either through gossiping, a judgmental comment, or from what you said in an email. It takes a lot of humility to realize when you have hurt someone else. Admitting when you have messed up and going to that person will speak volumes about you. We have all said something we shouldn’t have to others, but circling back around and apologizing and making things right is a sign of someone with great humility and integrity. Both of these qualities are ones that should be respected.

Understand Their Viewpoint

When an administrator, student, colleague, or family member says or does something that hurts or offends you, take a minute to think of why they might be saying or doing these things. Try to understand their point of view and how they might feel wronged. They might be trying to make you better and keep you accountable, but they have not chosen the right way to go about it. When you are ready to have a conversation, come to the table with an open mind. You never what other people are going through. Oftentimes their personal lives are impacting how they are performing in the workplace. Be sensitive to and listen to their concerns so you can move forward united instead of divided.

Move Forward United

The hope is that you and the other person will be able to forgive each other and move on. This may not always be the case. After meeting together, the other person may continue to hold on to this issue and not let it go. If so, you have done all you can but you have to move forward. It is not healthy to harbor these feelings as they will build up more and the relationship will be unable to heal. Be humble, gracious, and forgiving when working with others. You will certainly mess up at times with your colleagues, but they will respect you more at the end of the day with how you respond to those conflicts.

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