Jon Stolpe Stretched

What's S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g me now?

Leading Through Conflict

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?



August 19, 2011 - Posted by | leadership, stretch, thoughts, work


  1. Jon: This is not a direct answer to your question, but one thing I’ve noted is that corporations seem set up to create a certain amount of workplace conflict. In every company for which I have worked, I have observed that there are redundant positions and departments that must compete for resources, and that inevitably lead to conflict. Companies must perceive some benefit to creating a structure that leads to a certain amount of conflict, thought I am not sure what that benefit would be.

    God also seems to have wired human beings for conflict. One doesn’t have to study history for very long to see that. I myself do not deal especially well with personal conflicts and try to avoid them, though I know some people who thrive on conflict.

    Conflict can be a positive thing, if it ends in greater intimacy and deeper understanding. Let’s admit it: Making up with your wife after a fight can be fun. And with friends, a certain amount of conflict can move a friendship past the superficial into true intimacy. However, to reap the benefits of conflict, there must be deep love and commitment.

    Jon: those are my thoughts on your blog. I turn the microphone back to you, my friend.

    Comment by Michael Shaw | August 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Great thoughts! I think there are many directions this conversation could go related to conflict. I do agree that some conflict can actually push things along towards higher levels of excellence and greater levels of understanding. I think one of the primary goals in conflict resolution is to bring about restoration. I believe the biblical model presented in my post clearly had restoration in mind in handling conflict or sin between brothers.

      Thanks for the insight!

      Comment by jonstolpe | August 19, 2011 | Reply

  2. Oops: Forgot something. Beautiful picture of your children.

    Comment by Michael Shaw | August 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks, Believe it or not my kids have conflict with each other from time to time. I thought the picture depicted how unresolved conflict can create space between us. Thankfully, they enjoy each other most of the time!

      Comment by jonstolpe | August 19, 2011 | Reply

      • That is interesting. I interpreted the photo of your kids completely differently. I did not see personal distance or alienation between the children in the photo at all. I saw a loving relationship between siblings who are wise enough to give each other the space to explore the beautiful world in which we live. Children are sometimes wiser than adults.

        Comment by Michael Shaw | August 19, 2011 | Reply

  3. Great stuff! I would say to try to be a person others want to be around. Some individuals are always looking for an argument to start…

    Comment by Brandon | August 19, 2011 | Reply

    • Brandon, I’ve noticed that! I wonder why people are like this. I often say in my head or out loud, “Can’t we all just get along?” My guess is that there are some scars in there somewhere that prevent people from becoming this type of person.

      Comment by jonstolpe | August 19, 2011 | Reply

  4. As an attorney, I have been blessed by the ministry of Peacemakers, which practices a form of alternative dispute resolution. I would definitely recommend checking them out. Blessings,

    Comment by Pastor Matt | August 21, 2011 | Reply

    • I’ll have to check that out. Thanks, Matt!

      Comment by jonstolpe | August 24, 2011 | Reply

  5. […] 7.  (Another Tie) Leading Through Conflict […]

    Pingback by Top Posts For August 2011 « Jon Stolpe Stretched | September 2, 2011 | Reply

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