Archives For Leadership

Do you know of an organization that lacks wise leadership and advisers directing that organization? If you do, then that organization will fail.

John Maxwell says,  “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” And, in a way, this is true.

The Bible attests to this, and I am sure that Maxwell’s thought was probably not original with him but instead was derived from his study of the Bible.

Without Wise Leadership a Nation Will Fail

Picture from the NLT Study Bible

The book of Proverbs in the Bible mentions the word “leader” or “leadership” six different times. The first time the book mentions leadership is here:

Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers. – Proverbs 11:14 (NLT)

Sadly, there are nations in our world who do not have wise leadership. Some of the conflicts occurring in Ukraine reference this right now.

Proverbs 11:14 in HebrewBased on my own reading of the Hebrew text here are two thoughts about the language as I studied the literal meaning of this verse: Continue Reading…

A couple years ago I wrote a series of blog posts about the Apostle Paul and how he displayed specific leadership characteristics in the book of Philemon. However, looking back on those posts now, I do not believe that I provided adequate background information on the Apostle Paul. Because of that, some of the leadership principles might have been missed.

Background Information on the Apostle Paul and His Leadership in Philemon

Photo Credit: IsraelTourism

At the bottom of this post I’ve provided links to my four posts about Philemon and Paul’s leadership. However I’ve shared in today’s post some significant background information on the Apostle Paul to help you see how his leadership was displayed in the book of Philemon. Continue Reading…

Manipulation is almost a dirty word in America. No one wants to feel manipulated to do anything, which is why when you lead people you cannot use manipulation as a way to get them to do work. In this post I will share why it is important to motivate people to do work instead of manipulating them.

pic of carrot and stickFlickr Photo Credit: opensourceway

Here’s a few questions to orient us what manipulation is and how it affects us:

  • Have you ever been manipulated into doing something?
  • How did that make you feel?:
  • Did you want to do that activity again later?
  • What were your thoughts about that person who manipulated you? Continue Reading…

Learning to live with my neighbor is something I have been praying about and working on lately.

Conflict Among Others
Thomas Merton’s comments in Bridges to Contemplative Living are very beneficial when he writes, “How does man attain to a real union of love with his neighbor? . . . . by a realistic collaboration in the work of daily living in the world of hard facts in which man must work in order to eat” (p. 40). Having a “union of love” with my neighbor is something I honestly do not have with most people.

Even though I a respectful of others thoughts and opinions and I get along with others well, I often have trouble connecting deeply with people or I feel that I am different. This has led me to withdraw and feel hurt when I do open myself up for others in an attempt to build friendships only to have the other person not follow through on what they say or promise.

However, I find Kempis’ words encouraging when he tells us in The Imitation of Christ, “The man who is neither eager to please men nor afraid to displease them is the one who will enjoy great peace” (p. 119).

Perhaps part of my lack of feeling close to others (or the feeling of being very different) is because I am trying to please them or not please them?

This is something I will dedicate more time and attention to in my prayers going forward.

Question: How do you learn to live with your neighbor?

Today is the final post in my series about engaging in conflict with upper management. You can read yesterday’s post here, Talk it Out.

APPLYING THESE PRINCIPLES TO ORGANIZATIONAL LIFE

  Conflict Among Others

These new understandings of how to effectively engage in conflict with upper management give us a new framework when conflict arises at work. Now while at work, we know that when conflict comes up, we should not stand for any type of behavior by our boss that is hostile or that belittles us. We also know that it is important that we talk out the conflict with leadership of our organization in a productive way that does not vent our negative feelings and shows support for our leader.

Much of this research is greatly beneficial to me in my work because I have a direct supervisor whom I work for and report to on a regular basis. She also reports to our President/CEO who also reports to our 25 member Board of Directors. So, as I am mostly at the bottom of our organization, I have to deal with how to have constructive conflict with the woman I report to because there are times when I disagree on an issue that we need to talk about and work through together.

Even though there are times when I express my disagreements with her and she makes a decision that does not agree with mine, it is ok because she has the authority to make decisions. It is also important that I navigate our conflict in an effective way in order to foster a positive work environment. This means I stay away from the avoid/criticize loop and not talk negatively about her to people inside or outside of our work department. This is important because she knows that no matter what happens in a conflict she has my support.

Another area that this research applies to my life is with my assertiveness to stand up for myself against unjust treatment. This means that when someone treats me poorly, either at work or at home, that I can stand up for myself. Being treated unjustly does not happen on a regular basis to me, but it is something I need to be sensitive to in the future because I know my natural tendency as an Analyzer/Preserver is to not defend myself against unjust treatment.[1]

The odds are that you are like me: someone who works as part of a team who has one (or more) bosses you have to report to on a regular basis. Now that you know it is okay to engage in conflict with upper management on a regular basis by standing up against unjust treatment and talking out the conflict, I hope you will have productive conflict.

Question: How do you effectively engage in conflict with upper management?


[1] Susan Gilmore and Patrick Fraleigh, the Friendly Style Profile: a guide through calm and storm (Eugene, OR: Friendly Press, 2004).

BIBLIOGRAPHY (for entire blog series)

Baldoni, John. Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up. New York: American Management Association, 2010.

Barunek, Jean M., and Barbara E. Bowe. “Transformational Management of Conflict: A Perspective from the Early Christian Church.” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 1, no. 2 (1998): 151-162.

Gilmore, Susank and Patrick Fraleigh. the Friendly Style Profile: a guide through calm and storm. Eugene, OR: Friendly Press, 2004.

Lipsky, David and Ariel Augar. “The Conflict over Conflict Management.” Dispute Resolution Journal 65 (May/October 2010): 11, 38-43.

Schrock-Shenk, Carolyn., and Lawrence Ressler, eds. Making Peace with Conflict: Practical Skills for Conflict Transformation. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1999.

Roloff, Michael E. “Links between Conflict Management Research and Practice.” Journal of Applied Communication Research 37, no. 4 (November 2009): 339-348.

Swindoll, Chuck. David: A Man of Passion and Destiny. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997.

Wilmot, William and Joyce Hocker. Interpersonal Conflict. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

Today is part three of a four part blog series about engaging in conflict with upper management. You can read yesterday’s post here, Stand Up Against Unjust Treatment.

TALK IT OUT

I hesitate to say that management and workers need to talk about the issues in conflict because it seems obvious, but I am sure that you know it is not always practiced.

Avoid and Criticize Loop

It is important to talk out conflict because “if a disagreement emerges, what you do not do matters as much as what you do.”[1] Often it is easier to talk about and criticize the leader we work under instead of confronting the leader. In our course text, Wilmot and Hocker describe this as the “avoid/criticize” loop. They write, “The avoid/criticize loop is quite common in professional circles and the business world. One talks about others, but doesn’t join with them face to face and solve the problem.”[2] That avoid/criticize loop can be seen in the diagram above.

Avoiding and criticizing the other person does little to create a resolution to conflict, especially if someone in task focused work has a conflict with someone in upper management because communication is already limited. Because of this reality between upper management and employees it only fosters an environment where more of the avoid/criticize loop happens.

If we have a conflict with someone in upper management we are most likely to share our disgust with the person(s) we communicate with the most. This means it is vitally important that we not participate in the avoid/criticize loop and when we do have a conflict with someone in upper management that we go to that person and talk about it directly. We saw this modeled for us in the passage of David confronting Saul.

Remember when David walked out of the cave, shouted to Saul to get his attention, and then confronted Saul on the wrongs that David believed were happening. Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll provides great commentary on this situation when Swindoll points out that “David told Saul the whole unvarnished truth; he told it to the person to whom it mattered most. Not to his comrades or to Saul’s friends or to the people of Israel, but to Saul himself. He came to terms with the individual with whom there was the battle.”[3] This is good because if there is a conflict that takes place between you and upper management, you need to meet together, talk, and work through it.

Even though there are many strategies, techniques, and ideas about how to successfully talk through conflict, the simple attempt to work through the conflict can be constructive. What is important is to talk about the conflict because “collaboration actively affirms the importance of relationship and content goals and thus builds a team or partnership approach to conflict management.”[4] According to Wilmot and Hocker the simple act of wanting to talk through the issue of conflict helps each person to know there is a problem which allows them to work to fix it. However, when conflict does arise most people shy away from it, so there must be a conscious decision to talk about it.

When I express the necessity of simply talking about the issue with upper management some people might perceive that as an excuse to “vent” their anger and feelings to the upper management, which is actually destructive. I want to make sure that as you attempt to talk out issues with upper management it does not mean you vent your emotions. Because communication sometimes does not happen on a regular basis on key issues in the workplace, it might allow for situations to happen over and over again which gives room for feelings of anger and hostility to build up. When those feelings of anger and hostility build up, it might be easy to vent your feelings.

Some people even mistakenly say that venting is healthy for the person who feels the anger. That is a fallacy.

Venting is more destructive than constructive to the person who is angry and the person who has to listen to the angry person. One textbook teaches, “Venting does nothing to help the conflict process.”[5] This is especially true when you need to confront your leader. If you do think you need to vent, “do it with a safe friend, a counselor, a designated third party—not the conflict partner with whom you are attempting to work. Venting can feel wonderful for a while—but the price is usually too high to warrant the ‘Yes!’ feeling of telling the other person off.”[6] When you decided to talk to upper management about conflict make sure you are focused on specific issues that you know need to be remedied.

Even if you do work hard to talk out the issue and not vent, it is important to remember that the leader has the authority to make the final decision. Sometimes the leader is open to the follower’s thoughts and opinions, sometimes she is not which is ok because that is the decision of the leader. In his book, Lead Your Boss, John Baldoni teaches us how to “Push Back the Right Way” to our boss when we disagree or have an idea that might be different than hers. Baldoni reminds us that if our leader does disagree with us we need to:

. . . act professionally. Most of the time, if you and your boss disagree, she will win the argument because she holds power over you and your peers. Accepting that fact does not mean you are a pushover. It is a sign of organizational savvy. It also opens the door for further dialogue. Make it clear that while you disagree behind closed doors, you will not embarrass you boss in a meeting with higher-ups. You will demonstrate your support. That gives the boss the security to know that you have her back. There will be times to voice your opposition, but you don’t want to do so in ways that will make your boss look foolish.[7]

Baldoni gives us some great insight about talking out the conflict. It is good to remind the leader that you have her back in front of the rest of the group. As we already learned, expressing your anger and disgust about upper management to your coworkers only criticizes your leader and causes more conflict. It is important to voice your opinion and talk it out with your boss, but in the end your boss is still your boss, and she makes the final decision.

Question: How do you talk out conflict?


[1] Michael E. Roloff, “Links between Conflict Management Research and Practice,” Journal of Applied Communication Research 37, no. 4 (November 2009): 341.

[2] William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 154.

[3] Chuck Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 89.

[4] William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 171.

[5] Ibid., 208.

[6] Ibid., 208.

[7] John Baldoni, Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up, (New York: American Management Association, 2010), 61.

Today is part two of a four part series about engaging in conflict with upper management. You can read yesterday’s post here, Why Engaging Upper Management in Conflict is Important.

STAND UP AGAINST UNJUST TREATMENT

An example of conflict from scripture is in 1 Samuel 28:7-22.

Conflict

The context of this section of scripture is the mentally ill Saul (who we know was tormented by an evil spirit) is searching for David to kill him. For years Saul has attempted to hunt down and kill David. As a result, David and his men are hiding in a cave in the wilderness of En-gedi. While in the cave David is tempted to kill Saul but instead just cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe. Then Saul walks out of the cave, and David decides to confront Saul. It could be argued that until this point of David’s confrontation, he has been wrongly treated by Saul. Scripture tells us that David has been an outstanding commander and man of war in the Israelite army.

In fact, David was more successful than any of the other commanders in Saul’s army, yet Saul unjustly attempts to kill David on several occasions. And those attempts to kill David have caused Davod great emotional harm because he had to flee to the wilderness to hide, he had to move his family to keep them safe. The relationship with his best friend, Jonathan (who is also Saul’s son and next in line to become king), is in high tension, and he has lost his wife because of the conflict with Saul. As David follows Saul out of this cave, he decides to take a stand and confront Saul for the unjust treatment he has received by saying,

My lord the king! . . . . Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’11Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. . . . 15May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power![1]

I think David does a great job of confronting Saul about the wrong things that he feels Saul has done to him. He does not just vent his emotions to Saul, (even though I am sure David was emotional), but he states his opinion that is based on fact. David declares that he will not stand for Saul attempting to kill him.

There comes a point when even if your boss secures your job and/or signs your paycheck, that extreme poor treatment should not be allowed to happen. You are a whole person and “when another’s expression of anger, rage, or contempt burns out of control, you have a responsibility to protect yourself. Listening to belittling; hostile blame; ridicule; demeaning or untrue accusations; sarcastic name-calling; contempt; or actual physical threats is not good conflict management.”[2] One should not attack the unjust person but should not allow unjust behavior to happen, which is what we see here with David. David does not want to “win.” He just wants Saul to know that Saul is in the wrong, that David is going to allow God to judge each of them, that they should find a way to work together to seek the common good for both parties.[3]

The next few verse tell us that David and Saul actually talk out the issue and come to a resolution where Saul confesses he has been wrong and David goes the opposite way.

Question: How do you stand up against unjust treatment?


[1] 1 Samuel 24:7-22 (New Living Translation)

[2] William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 215.

[3] Jean M. Bartunek and Barbara E. Bowe, Transformational Management of Conflict: A Perspective from the Early Christian Church, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 1, no. 2 (1998): 157.

Today is part one of a four part series sharing some research I did on how to engage in conflict with upper management.

WHY ENGAGING UPPER MANAGEMENT IN CONFLICT IS IMPORTANT

Engaging in conflict with upper management is a tough topic to discuss and an even more difficult thing to practice effectively.

Anger in Conflict
That “boss” you have conflict with secures your job via your annual performance review, and he might also be the person who personally signs your paycheck. As someone working towards the bottom of the organizational hierarchy, I have felt the consequences of good and poor conflict management when interacting with my boss. Some of the experiences I have been through have led me to want to do research to discover the answers to questions such as: How do I as a follower with two levels of management above me express my dissatisfaction about an issue or topic while still staying in line with my leader? How do I do a good job of being a team member who is loyal to his boss while also expressing my thoughts and views that are different than what my boss has? How do I express my views and ideas that conflict with the leader above me and have those ideas and views implemented?

The idea of a young leader at the bottom of an organization creating conflict is new to traditional management philosophies which believe that power belongs at the top and should stay there. David Lipsky and Ariel Augar write, “Dealing with conflicts in organizations has traditionally been the responsibility of managers and administrators who took an authoritarian view of conflict and how to deal with it.”[1] In the past, it was uncommon to have an organized method to deal with conflict created by a subordinate. And, some business leaders have legitimate grounds to believe conflict management systems promote workplace conflict and inevitably lead to higher levels of employee participation in decision making than is desirable.[2]

I believe it is good that we take time to think through what conflict looks like because conflict is going to happen. Former pastor and leadership expert John Maxwell tells us that, “Conflict will arise in any organization. Humans disagree because they are wired differently and have different agendas.”[3] Regardless of who you are or where you work in the organizational hierarchy you will have to engage in conflict. Reading through our text in class put it well this way: “Dealing with conflict is a little like being pregnant. It becomes clear at some point that the delivery needs to take place.”[4] Since conflict is something that will happen sooner or later, I would like to share two successful ways to engage upper management in conflict.

Question: Why do you believe engaging in conflict with upper management is important?


[1] David Lipsky and Ariel Augar, “The Conflict over Conflict Management,” Dispute Resolution Journal 65, (May/October 2010): 11.

[2] Ibid., 11.

[3] John C. Maxwell, The Maxwell Leadership Bible, 2nd ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 1204.

[4] Carolyn Schrock-Shenk and Lawrence Ressler, eds., Making Peace with Conflict: Practical Skills for Conflict Transformation, (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1999), 89.

I think that as I have become older I have learned to channel my anger to grow and learn.

Anger in Conflict

In the past I might have repressed my anger and tried to make it go away by diminishing the importance of what was angering me. However as I have become older, I am learning to grow and look at what part of the incident might have been my fault. When I take time to think back on a scenario I am able to look at what I might have been able to do to prevent the event that led me to become angry.

For example, one of the ways that I channeled my anger in the work example I shared yesterday is to think, “What could I have done to defend myself better on the spot?” I realized that I should have said and done more that would have let her know in the middle of the confrontation that what she said needed to be changed. I channeled my anger as an opportunity to grow and learn about how to deal with conflict. I also channeled my energy from the anger to confront the woman about what was said. I experienced what a textbook describes: “Anger can be a wake-up call, a motivator, and an energizer—a source of empowerment (usually) for the person who feels it.”[1] Anger definitely served that purpose for me in this scenario. Confronting others is not easy and it takes courage so I used that anger as energy to confront my coworker.

The material from a course I took called, Conflict Transformation in Ministry, has been helpful to me in thinking about how I want to change how I deal with conflict. As Dr. Dunn shared in almost every lecture, “Dealing with conflict starts with me.”[2] I can definitely say that I now understand myself better in how I deal with anger and navigate conflict. I have noticed that when I encounter anger it is often mixed in with sadness as well. I am not sure why this happens, but it does.

For example, at the height of my anger with my coworker I began to cry. I think that the pain that comes with that sadness is also what drives me to fix the conflict and work through it. I realized this sadness might actually help me in conflict when I learned in our textbook that, “Sadness and depression may help in conflict resolution because the feelings are so unpleasant that we are moved to find new solutions to problems.”[3] The hurt and pain that I felt was plenty of drive for me to want to fix the problem. Two other lessons I have learned about my own anger in conflict are that it is ok to express myself in confrontation, and when I express my anger, it needs to be purposeful. Expressing anger just because you feel it does not mean the anger will go away. Our text teaches us, “Venting does nothing to help the conflict process . . . If you feel the need to vent, do it with a safe friend, a counselor, or a designated third party—not the conflict partner with whom you are attempting to work. Venting can feel wonderful for a while—but the price is usually too high to warrant the ‘Yes!’ feeling of telling the other person off.”[4] Thankfully based on my own prior growth, our class, and the text we have been reading, I now feel better equipped to deal with my own anger and conflict.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dunn, Ph.D., Larry. “Understanding Conflict: Introduction, Orientation, Theology.” Lecture, Fresno Pacific University-North Center Campus, Fresno, CA, December 1, 2011.

Wilmot, William and Joyce Hocker. Interpersonal Conflict. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.


[1] William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 202.

[2] Larry Dunn, Ph.D., “Understanding Conflict: Introduction, Orientation, (lecture, Fresno Pacific University-North Center Campus, Fresno, CA, December 1, 2011).

[3] William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker, Interpersonal Conflict, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011), 204.

[4] Ibid., 208.

Anger has had a variety of parts in my life. As a young boy my mom says that I often became angry and fought with my classmates in elementary school.

Anger in Conflict
At that time I seemed to express my anger at others, but as I have grown older I slowly shifted my anger expressions less towards others and more towards myself or alone by myself.

One event that has had a deep impact on me and how I deal with conflict is when I was a freshman in high school and I was engaged in a fight that caused me to be suspended from school for five days. (You should have seen the other guy!) If I was more calm, self-confident, and intelligent I would have dealt with the situation differently. However, when a Junior classman who outweighed me by about 90 pounds decided to push me I fought back. As a result, I was suspended and rightfully blamed in the matter.

After that event I started to direct more of my anger inward. Instead of lashing out in anger at others I started to spill out my anger towards myself while alone. If I was angry with my cell phone not working I would throw it against the dash board of my truck. If I did not play a good round of golf I would cuss and throw my clubs. It has been over 10 years since my fight in high school when I first realized I had an anger problem.

Now, at the age of 26 I am known as the even keeled guy who is always calm and under control. I know myself, I know what angers me, and I know how to handle it.

I have seen anger displayed when my dad would become angry at someone or something. Often he would express his anger with his verbal words in front of me or in a public place. Another setting I saw anger in was when playing golf in high school and college. I saw many kids display anger in healthy and unhealthy ways. Some kids were always even keeled, and even if they were frustrated, they did not express their anger in harmful ways to themselves or the people they were playing with. Unfortunately I witnessed some of the kids expressing their anger in harmful ways by yelling cuss words, throwing their clubs, being mean to spectators, breaking their clubs, and being mean to competitors.

I have seen anger dealt with negatively and positively at work between co-workers. At our office there is a tendency for coworkers to express their anger to a coworker who is not involved in the incident.

For example, if Jessica is angry at Jeff, Jessica has a tendency to express her anger to Janelle. The constructive way to share anger is to talk with the person directly about it.

I believe a good way to deal with anger is when the two people gather together one-to-one with a closed door and express their anger. This allows those people to:

  1. know who is angry;
  2. know what the anger is about;
  3. keep others out of the conflict who do not need to know about it;
  4. find a resolution.

I have been involved in both of these ways of dealing with conflict and anger at work.

In fact, just recently I was involved in a conflict at work when a coworker cussed towards me regarding a personal character quality that I have. The event happened when the coworker (who is not my supervisor, does not work with me on any projects, and who has no authority over me) used a cuss word to describe my eating habits. She expressed it to me in front of our Human Resources Manager and other coworkers. I quickly said something to defend my eating habits, then walked to my desk. Even though I had defended myself about my eating habits, I did not address this person about the disrespectful way she talked to me. It was the end of the work day so I was not able to talk to her about it, but the more I thought about the incident, the angrier I became. I started to rehearse in my mind what I was going to say to her. I had two ways I could have dealt with this anger: 1) tell my coworkers, girlfriend, and boss about it to share with them what I went through; or 2) talk to my coworker directly about it to resolve the conflict and my anger. So, the next day at work before doing anything else I went into this woman’s office and asked if she had a few minutes to talk. And that is what we did: talk about it. I asked her to remember what she had said to me the day before, and then I shared how that made me feel. I shared with her that it was disrespectful to be talked to like that and I that was not going to allow that to happen. We talked through it for a while, she apologized a few times and, then all was good. Because I took the time to express with her one-to-one what had angered and hurt me we were able to come to peace together on it (that peace happened mostly because she apologized for what she said).

Reflecting back on that experience has led me to realize that anger is not always present on the surface. In dealing with the hurt feelings I had of my coworker, most of the time I was angry when thinking about what was said and how it made me feel. 

Question: How do you deal with anger in conflict?