Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Conflict ... Part Two

What are the issues behind conflict? •A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real). •Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them. •We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs. •Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren’t comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won’t be able to resolve conflict successfully. •Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you’re able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements. I have observed that most people do not like the pain of conflict. But, who is responsible for attempting to resolve the conflict? Pride often gets in the way of conflict resolution. The picture that comes to mind is of two people with arms crossed separated from each other by more than just several feet. They are separated emotionally. They glance at one another hoping the other would offer an olive branch. However, neither does and the conflict deepens until at some point what initiated the conflict is no longer even remembered. This cannot happen in a work environment. If a Chaplain is in conflict with a co-worker, there are expectations the co-worker has of him or her. There is the expectation that because the Chaplain is a minister that a minister will be the first to attempt resolution. Right or wrong, that is the perception. People have great expectations of ministers, don’t they? Unfair? Perhaps, but that is the general feeling among non-ministers. There are values that ministers share: Love for people; Desire to serve people; Passion for our work; We love to please others; We do not like conflict. While hardly an exhaustive list, these are part of a core set of ministerial values. I state this with the intention of presenting an approach to conflict resolution: The Win-Win Approach. The Win-Win Approach to Conflict Resolution Is the person with whom you are having conflict your opponent or your partner in the cause of hospice? The win-win approach says, “I want to win and I want you to win.” This statement is not easy to come to when in a high stakes conflict. However, if there is to be a win-win, then several things must be present in your demeanor: •Self-awareness/Emotional Intelligence—What emotional baggage am I influenced by in this conflict? Is there unresolved conflict that is influencing my emotions? Is there other ‘stuff’ influencing me at this moment? •Needs—What are my needs in this conflict? Must I win at all cost? Do I own any of this conflict or am I a victim of the other person’s need for power and control over me? Your answer to that question will determine if you really want a win-win or win-lose outcome. •Big picture—What is the bigger picture? Am I and my need to win this conflict bigger than the bigger picture? The answer to that will determine if conflict resolution is even possible. What are the needs of the person with whom I am in conflict? Have I considered his or her needs? It’s a good thing to do if you desire a win-win outcome. •Target of attack—In approaching conflict, the target is key. Recently, I came upon a prosecuting attorney who told me that before each trial, she had to develop a hatred for the accused in order to be convincing to the jury. I found that odd as this person described herself as a deeply devoted Christian. However, when there is a conflict, those involved seem to take a similar posture. Hopefully, they don’t hate each other, but certainly there is enough personal attack to go around. The win-win approach has as its target the problem, not the person. “Solve the problem at hand, salvage the relationship if at all possible” is the motive behind the win-win approach. There are other approaches to conflict resolution, but the win-win approach seems to fit the focus of this study. Humility, ownership of responsibility, and integrity on the part of the Chaplain will go a long way to resolving conflict. Does this suggest a “happily ever after” outcome? Absolutely not! There are situations when a conflict has deteriorated a relationship to the point that a working relationship is no longer possible and one of two options exist: re-assignment or resignation. Re-assignment brings relief, albeit, temporary relief because there will be new people and new conflicts. The key benefit of re-assignment is that is gives time for healing and rekindling of passion to succeed in the work of chaplaincy, and it also brings the sense of reality in that there is an awareness that no one can go from one re-assignment to another to another. That type of thing leads to the belief that conflict resides with the person re-assigned. Resignation ends the relationship permanently with no hope of resolution. This is a last resort measure. Resignation fosters the following: victim mentality, self-righteousness, avoidance of responsibility, future problems with relationships, let alone unemployment. No, resignation is not the best solution. If you are in a conflict, seek resolution. The work of the hospice Chaplain is too important to have the anchor of unresolved conflict pulling it down. Conflict drains you of necessary emotional energy. If you can’t resolve it, seek assistance from your manager or HR representative. Whatever you do, do not build a cadre of supporters who will choose up sides. That is unprofessional and simply wrong. Carry yourself as the minister you are and keep your reputation unsullied.

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