Resolving Conflict with Coworkers

Small Group Study / Produced by TOW Project
Conflict with coworkers

This lesson was piloted in April 2017 by Southern California Teen Challenge, in a program for men rehabilitating from drug addiction and prison. To see all lessons, go to the Men's Prison Curriculum Table of Contents.

Discussion Question: Have you ever had a fight with someone you worked with? What happened in the end?

The most common problem workers face is conflict with coworkers. You spend more time with your coworkers than you do with any other people. Sometimes you come from different backgrounds with different understandings of what behavior is okay. Or maybe you’re in competition for a position. Whatever the reason, conflict with coworkers makes work miserable. And if you have a criminal record, a conflict with a coworker increases your chances of getting fired.

Jesus understood that conflicts happen. He laid out a model for conflict resolution when he told his disciples how they should relate to each other.

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
(Matthew 18:15-17)

You can take several lessons from this verse for resolving conflicts with coworkers:

  • Address the problem as soon as possible with the other person, face to face.
  • Describe the problem without name-calling or self-justification.
  • Listen to the other person’s side of the story. Listening is so important that Jesus mentions it three times in this passage.
  • If meeting one-on-one doesn’t bring a solution, ask mutual friends or a direct supervisor to step in.

Discussion Question: Imagine that a coworker took one of your tools home without asking, and you couldn’t do your job. What do you do? Imagine you are talking to that person the next day. What do you say?

Discussion Question: Imagine that one of your coworkers told you another coworker was talking about you behind your back. What do you do?

Jesus had to remind his followers to stay non-violent when they were threatened.

While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, “Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?” When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.
(Luke 22:47-51)

Even the people following Jesus got angry when threatened. They wanted to respond to violence with violence. But Jesus said violence is never a good idea. The version of this story in the Gospel of Matthew adds this explanation.

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
(Matthew 26:52)

Violence isn’t a way to solve problems; it will only get you into more trouble. You often hear people say: “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” This is what Jesus tells his disciples. If you use violence or threats of violence, there will be a negative consequence.

Discussion Question: Jesus gives a lot of advice about solving conflicts. Which tip will you try next time you’re in a fight with a coworker?

Discussion Question: What part of Jesus’ advice is hardest to follow?