It'is baffling at times why otherwise well-intentioned, hard-working people can’t seem to resolve conflict in their midst. My role as a consultant at The Center gets me a seat at the table in many organizations that have become totally engulfed in conflict. I listen, I ask a few questions, and then I listen some more. Before long, the problem is so obvious to me that I can’t believe they have so much time, effort, resources, and heartache wrapped up in this issue. They weren’t able to resolve the situation on their own because they weren’t trying to solve the right problem.
How to Solve the Right Problem
I use the following chart to help groups answer the right question and therefore solve the right problem. This alone can go a long way to resolve the conflict because it helps the team see the facts more objectively and with less emotion.
This process creates opportunity for voice in the system without having a free-for-all. Each time segment allows input that is relevant rather than providing a platform for circular reasoning, joining the bandwagon of the chronically discontent, or simply spewing toxic accusations to keep the organization in a state of chaos.
When to Walk Away
Knowing when to let go and give up is not always easily discerned, but sometimes, it is the right thing to do. For a variety of reasons, some conflicts end in separation, and that is OKAY. When you have made serious attempts to reconcile but have failed repeatedly, or the differences are so deep that no middle ground is acceptable, it is best to release yourself and others from further obligation. This may mean someone is transferred to a different department or asked to leave the organization.
In certain cases, separation can be the healthiest resolution. In the Bible, separation was necessary to accomplish what God had intended. I can think of over 20 of these illustrations with little effort. There are enough examples throughout history to convince me that a valid strategy is to agree to disagree and part company. One classic dispute in the scriptures happens between Paul and Barnabas. These two close buds were committed followers of Jesus, but they disagreed about how to use another person in their group. The best scenario for them was to divide, and God blessed them both!
Dave Marks has over 35 years of church ministry experience including 23 years as a senior pastor. His consulting experience includes ministry assessment, leadership coaching, and strategic planning. Dave’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.S. in Organizational Leadership and a D.Min. in Leadership.