Archives For engaging in conflict with management

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.


  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 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.


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


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.