Monday, December 10, 2007

More on Fairness

Even though you might be committed to using resolving conflict with biblical same-mindedness, there will be times when it will not be possible to satisfy everyone's interests. Some interests do compete against one another, and ultimately someone has to make the call as to which solution to implement. So what can be done to preserve relationships then and to enlist the cooperation of those in your group who had advocated a different outcome?

One answer focuses on what is called "procedural fairness". When conflict participants believe that they have been treated fairly during the conflict resolution process, they are more likely to go along with the chosen outcome. They also are more likely to maintain a more positive relationship with the person who "made the call" that went against them.

Researchers have identified four essential leadership practices that signal to others in conflict that they are being treated fairly:

(1) giving others a meaningful platform for expressing their views;
(2) giving others assurance that their views have been heard and seriously considered;
(3) indicating in some fashion that your are attempting to be even-handed; and
(4) cultivating a palpable group climate of dignity and respect for all.

There will always be some people who call "unfair" any process that does not produce the outcomes they want. Nevertheless, leaders who consistently implement the above practices will generally facilitate the perception that they have been fair in coming to a decision. And their fairness will in turn facilitate others trusting them and cooperating with them.

When used correctly, the process of resolving conflict with biblical same-mindedness meets the four criteria researchers have found to facilitate perceptions of fairness. In my next post, I'll share some specific examples of how this is so.

Application Questions:
1. Looking again at the four indications of procedural fairness, what Scriptures can you think of to support each?
2. Refer to the case study on pages 64-65 of "Where Do We Go From Here?" What specific steps might the pastor take to indicate fairness as he works with the others to solve the problem?
3.What specific steps can you think of that would indicate to someone that you are seriously considering their views?

Note: For more information on the process of biblical same-mindedness, check out "Where Do We Go From Here: The Path To Biblically Resolving Conflict" by Randal L. Gilmore. Available here.

To read more on the subject of fairness in conflict, see "Perceptions of Fairness" by Nancy J. Walsh.


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