Navigating Workplace Conflict Through Faith and Forgiveness
Conflict in the workplace can be a challenging experience for anyone, whether it is between co-workers, managers, or employees. Navigating conflict requires a certain level of skill and patience. When conflict is not managed and allowed to fester, it leads to dissatisfaction, aggression, and impacts morale and productivity. This, in turn, results in increased absenteeism, legal issues, and higher staff turnover, a toxic work culture and damages the organisation’s reputation, customer experience, and image.
Different conflict resolution models
Thought leaders have taught us many methodologies and techniques to combat conflict based on various leadership models. These models address worldly challenges and influences threatening disharmony in society.
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) was developed as a research tool by Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann in the early 1970s, and we are taught to understand the different conflict resolution styles such as avoidance or withdrawal, accommodation, dominance or forcing democratic method, mediation and arbitration, collaboration, radical, assertiveness, and empathy.
However, these models designed are effective only up to a point and then fail as they miss one important component, which is crucial to the success of humanity, and that is the exclusion of God. As Christians, we can turn to Scripture for guidance on how to deal with conflict in the workplace.
Conflict resolution according to Scripture
Proverbs 13:10 is clear – pride leads to conflict. It is essential to recognise that conflict often arises from a sense of self-importance and the need to assert one’s ideas or opinions. Instead, we should approach conflicts with humility and a willingness to listen to others’ perspectives.
In Proverbs 28:25, we learn that greed causes fighting. Conflicts in the workplace can arise from various factors such as poor management, unclear job roles, inadequate training, poor communication, bullying and harassment, discrimination, and pay inequity. As Christians, we should be vigilant about how we treat our colleagues and ensure that we are not driven by greed or selfishness.
James 4:1–6 further emphasises that conflicts arise from our passions and desires. We must be aware of our motivations and check ourselves when we feel the urge to engage in conflict. It is essential to communicate effectively and avoid miscommunication that can escalate conflict.
Praying for peace and unity makes a difference because you are seeking the help of the Prince of Peace. “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people” (Timothy 2:24– 25). When someone disagrees with you, maintain a gracious, gentle, and patient attitude instead of becoming angry and defensive. “A new commandment I give unto you: Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).
Most professionals advise that you should either move to another department or leave your employer if the conflict becomes so bad that it affects your mental state or even becomes life-threatening. Should your employer not assist you, they advise you to have a Plan B and move to greener pastures, so to speak.
Yet in Scripture, we read this surprising account. The angel of the Lord came to speak to Hagar, who had run away from an unsympathetic work situation. “Return to your mistress and submit to her authority.” Then he adds, “I will give you more descendants than you can count” (Genesis 16:9–10). The Lord knew that he would turn things around for Hagar through his own divinity and make the situation more tenable for all parties concerned.
How many of us are emotionally and spiritually strong enough to trust in the Lord completely to deal with a troubling situation? These verses teach us that the Christian perspective to face challenges and not shy away or leave your employer is very different from the worldly views of resigning or running away from a conflict or bad employer.
Therefore, having faith means putting your trust in God and having confidence that he will fulfil his promises. It is extremely important to learn that crisis makes you a partner with Christ in suffering and leads to hope. “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Scripture also teaches us that God is fair and expects fairness from people, so employers should always treat employees fairly and vice versa. “If your boss is angry at you, don’t quit! A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes” (Ecclesiastes 10:4). If an employer is critical and overbearing, employees should continue to do their best and strive to please God. God sends his angels to intercede and protect you, and through divine intervention, your conflict will soon be overturned.
It is also empowering to turn to the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 18:15–17, which instruct us to approach the person privately and seek to resolve the conflict directly. If that fails, we should involve a neutral third party to mediate the conflict. As Christians, we should always strive for reconciliation and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is an essential aspect of resolving conflict in the workplace. In Colossians 3:13, we are instructed to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. Forgiveness can be challenging, especially when we feel wronged, but it is necessary for healing and moving forward.
Empowered to navigate conflict effectively
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, but we can learn from Scripture how to deal with it effectively. We should approach conflicts with humility and a willingness to listen to others’ perspectives. We should also be vigilant about our motivations and avoid conflicts driven by greed or selfishness. Finally, forgiveness is essential for healing and moving forward. As Christians, we are empowered to navigate conflicts and create a harmonious work environment.
Grant Saptoe is a Managing Director at Paradigm Management Consulting, where he specialises in helping organisations eradicate workplace bullying through a variety of strategies. With a focus on workplace wellness, Grant assists organisations by conducting risk assessments, implementing policies, and providing training interventions to prevent and address bullying in the workplace.