Conflict at Work (1-Hour Small Group Study)
For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.
INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE:
Most of us have experienced conflict at work. Shows like The Office and movies such as Office Space make light of conflicts between bosses and subordinates or between coworkers. But real workplace conflict is no laughing matter. If conflict goes unresolved it could leave you feeling stressed, drained and unenthusiastic about your work. This session will offer a biblical framework for resolving conflict, and help you reflect on conflict you've faced in the workplace.
- Have you experienced a major conflict at work? How does conflict affect your experience at your job today?
- Have you ever had a conflict with a coworker or with a boss? How did you resolve the issue?
WHAT CAUSES CONFLICT?
In the workplace, many factors cause conflict, including competition over resources, differences in individual work styles or values, and unclear roles. Indeed, conflict has been around since the beginning of human experience. Because of their sin in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are cursed with conflict for the remainder of their relationship. “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Their children Cain and Abel are also famous examples of conflict. We should be unsurprised then when conflict comes up in our places of work.
JESUS’ MODEL FOR RESOLVING CONFLICT BETWEEN COWORKERS
Fortunately, Jesus offers a way to redeem workplace conflict. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus describes a process for conflict resolution between coworkers.
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.
To sum up, here are the steps in Jesus’ conflict resolution plan:
- Talk in person (rather than over email where misunderstandings can fester).
- Describe the problem respectfully, without self-justification.
- Listen to the other person’s side of the story (listening is so important that Jesus mentions it three times in these verses).
- If talking one on one doesn’t generate a solution, ask for help from mutual friends.
- If that doesn’t work, bring up the matter with a higher authority.
- If someone cannot accept an impartial judgement, it likely spells the end of that working relationship.
- What insights do you take from Jesus’ model for conflict resolution?
- Could you apply this framework to a workplace conflict you face now?