Dealing with Conflict at Work

We are involved in relationships all the time, and sometimes it can get messy… at home, at school, the neighborhood and at work. I have read books about how to cope with difficult people but sometimes you just might need a little practical counsel on what to do when conflict arises at work.

When facing a situation at work when people disagree over a project, course of action or decision, we sometimes find ourselves fighting to win. It can become a test of wills.

Rather than digging in the heels and insisting on our own way, an alternative is to stop for a moment and view the potential outcome in terms of what is God’s way, what is best for the organization. That is for whom we are all working, right (Colossians 3:17, 23)?

I recently read a few tips on how we can get to God’s best for the organization:

1. Stop being so defensive: Being overly defensive does not score points. Instead, it makes you look desperate and immature. Usually what is perceived as a personal attack is nothing more than an attempt to make an improvement, or it may possibly even be a legitimate point of view. Remove your ego from the situation, and see if it looks any different when you start to view the facts.

Okay, sometimes it really is a personal attack. But the rest of these tips will still work.

2. Maintain a calm tone of voice: It’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of emotions, especially when the person on the other side begins to raise their voice, use aggressive hand gestures or hostile body language. You will do much better if you can maintain a calm, confident approach, even when you are in the epicenter of outburst. Take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, count to five, and keep your cool. Controlling your voice is the key to controlling the situation. You might be surprised at the respect this will win from the other observers in the room.

3. Don’t retaliate with criticism or personal attack: In your mind, view the experience on a higher, spiritual plane instead of a simple conflict between two alpha-managers. Instead of retaliating, begin to ask probing questions, and get at the heart of the opposing point of view. Turn the conversation towards what is best for the organization, not about who will win.

4. Acknowledge the other person’s idea as legitimate: One of the most counter-intuitive things you can do in the heat of an intimidating argument is to build up the other person by giving them credit for their opinion, even if you strongly disagree. Usually that is what they are after anyway, to soothe their own ego. Try complimenting the other person on the validity of their idea, and it may very well diffuse the negativity and lead to a more productive discussion.

5. Look to God’s outcome for the situation: If God is truly present in your life and in your organization (which He is), then you must trust that he has a purpose and an outcome that is bigger than you or your co-worker. Picture yourself as the conduit for God’s grace and purpose to pour into the situation at hand, and see how that changes your attitude and the outcome.

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