CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO
Can we claim that given the nature of the human being, conflict is inevitable? And that the consequences flowing from these conflicts can be very serious.
In this article, Professor Nessan Ronan, lecturer at the National University of Lesotho,
considers some aspects of workplace conflicts. He believes that the effects of conflicts can create stress in individuals,
make them fearful and want to retaliate.
It is claimed that given the nature of the human being, conflict is inevitable. Whatever the truth of the statement we know that we witness conflicts on a daily basis. These range from wars between countries to squabbles between neighbours. The consequences flowing from these conflicts can be very serious.
In this article we will consider some aspects of workplace conflicts.
Workplace conflicts fall into two main categories. There are the employer-employee conflicts, which usually involve a trade union and may result in industrial action including strikes.
The second type is the employee¬- employee inter-personal conflict.
Inter-personal conflict in the workplace usually has very little to do if
anything with the employer’s business It may not be a physical threat and it is more likely to be a threat to the person’s ego or self-esteem. We shall identify four generic causes of conflicts in the workplace and we shall briefly discuss each one.
It is the second type of conflict that we are concerned with. The effects of conflicts can be to create stress in individuals,
make them fearful and want to retaliate.
Inter-personal conflict in the workplace usually has very little to do if anything with the employer’s business. It can start with one person being offended with another. It may be a small issue but because it is not resolved in time, it may escalate and involve other employees who begin to take sides
Ultimately, it may spin out of control and may require the intervention of senior management. In any event, conflicts tend to distract employees from the jobs leading to the organization being hurt.
There are numerous causes of conflicts. We can generalise by saying that in all cases of inter¬personal conflicts, one person is threatened by another
The first major cause of conflicts in the work place is the behaviour of the compulsive liar. It is generally known that there are people who can be described as compulsive liars. They have a strong urge to tell lies to people. There are some explanations for this. Those who have a narcissistic personality disorder are inter-alia compulsive liar. Their main aim is to impress others. So they can tell the most outrageous lies and wilt- then be upset if the other party does not believe them. A person with this disorder needs to seek professional assistance. But there are others without the disorder that will also lie. They may find it convenient to do so or they may lack the courage to face up to their consequences of wrongdoing. In the work place we frequently find employees who have told lies in their curriculum vitae. They will claim that they have qualifications, which they do not possess. It• is estimated that 40% of the applicants for jobs in South Africa have forged their documents. If they manage to get through the screening process and are employed, it is usually discovered that they cannot do the job. During my time at the Copperbelt University; in Zambia, I discovered that two senior academics had fabricated their qualifications. In these instances their contracts were terminated but not before there was an Enormous amount of conflict.
The first major cause of conflict in the workplace is the behaviour of the compulsive liar.
Telling lies is one of the important ways that a fraudster can cover up his wrongdoing. So he needs to continue to tell lies in order to defend his position. Usually this is the principal way his offences are discovered. In my experience, the consequences of pointing out to him the error of his ways, is to be subjected to a torrent of abuse.
We are commanded not to “bear false witness against our neighbour” which means do not tell lies.
If employees could remember this simple rule it would save an enormous amount of conflict in the workplace.
The second major cause of conflict in the workplace is the company politician.
With the company politician everyone is his or her friend and at the same time everyone is his or her enemy. He or she is typically not a high expertise person but he or she loves the idea that he or she has a story to tell and that he or she has influence with top management. His or her chief delight is to sow dissension where there previously was none.
The second type of person causing conflict in the workplace is the company politician.
In other words he lobs a bomb over the wall and then runs away. But he does it in a subtle manner. The main source of the conflicts that arise from the company politician is that he quotes others. The quotes are invariably about something bad, which “A” said about “B”. He or she will also be interested in playing one person off against another. While the information he or she spreads may be factually true, the practising Christian would not disclose it. In Matthew 5:9, we read “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”. This verse indicates that Jesus puts great importance on the role of the peacemaker. The company politician is the opposite of the peacemaker and is clearly not observing Christian principles.
The distorted communicator is the employee who bends the truth and transfers the information with a slant. It is similar to the spin¬ doctors employed by politicians and large public organizations. In many cases the information,
is concealed in a cloud of obfuscation, to such an extent that the recipients of the information are left puzzled as to its meaning. It is of course a more subtle form of lying. It can be used as part of a deceptive system when employees are for example being promoted or transferred or fired. Commonly you will hear someone say that
“John is a good worker but he lacks leadership and initiative”.
This is known as damming someone with faint praise. It is a cruel approach to a human being and very often leads to conflict when the aggrieved person discovers how they have been talked about. Jesus showed in the parable of the lost sheep that even the weakest and lowest member of the organization is to be valued and cared for. So the distorted communication is essentially dishonest and may lack the virtue of charity also.
Our fourth and final type is the anarchic member. This is the person who has decided" that all authority is bad and that the rules of the organization are not for him. He may be found bad mouthing the organization to customers, clients or other employees.
The main source of the conflicts that arise from the company politician is that he quotes others.
He will never acknowledge that anyone senior to him is doing a good job. You will even witness these situations in church and non¬governmental organizations. These people are basically mean spirited and may be carrying around much anger in their system. They may bear a grudge, which goes back years, and they are still exacting revenge. But of course this negative attitude affects the individual as well as the organization. In John 15.Jesus told his disciples, I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another". We can see clearly that the anarchic member is not living up to this advice.
In this brief article, I have looked at workplace conflicts in so far, as it relates to the employee in the workplace. The workplace is very important for the vast majority of individuals, because work is one of the principal avenues for psychological growth.
It is my contention that the level of conflict in the workplace could be reduced if employees took the gospel messages seriously and implemented the teachings of Jesus in their daily lives
It is also the place where the adult creates and re-creates a sense of personal identity and ‘come to know who they are.
Thus, conflict if it is not resolved satisfactorily, can lead to long-term, psychological and spiritual consequences for the individual.
We have discussed different types of conflict makers. They have a number of things in common.
Firstly, they create dissension in the workplace through their type of communication.
Secondly, they are in an—cases ignoring the word of God. It is my contention that the level of conflicts in the workplace’ could be reduced if employees took the gospel messages seriously and implemented the teachings of Jesus in their daily lives.
Prof Nessan Ronan National University of Lesotho Lesotho