Art of dealing with conflict

▲ Choon-jun, CEO of Ayu

There is no relationship without conflict

Conflict makes a relationship dance. Conflict can be a painful process, but it gives the relationship dynamics. If there is no conflict, it will be a very distant relationship or a relationship that is subordinate to the extent that the conflict is not revealed. Anyone with a flair for dealing with conflict will find conversion much easier and more useful than elimination. Conflict can be reconstructed if conflict lines are identified, causes and development methods are identified, and transformation methods are discovered.

A good relationship has the capacity to transform. Turn conflict into energy, not hurt. External conflicts can turn into internal conflicts. Social and political conflicts may escalate into family quarrels, labor-management conflicts may turn into labor-no-no-no conflicts, and class conflicts may turn into inter-class and generational conflicts. A competitive and conflicting relationship can be transformed into a cooperative and solidarity relationship. Changing the internal conflicts of the eunuchs into unity against the powers is also a transformation of conflict.

Politics is one of the most important areas to deal with conflict. If all social conflicts are resolved through politics, then politicians are gods. Social movements deal with various conflicts. Therefore, activists working in civic groups or various social movement groups are artists who deal with conflict. Union officials also deal with conflict. Trade union executives work in conflict, such as mediating conflicting interests among union members, fighting to reveal conflict, and negotiating and agreeing to mediate conflict. If you don’t have the sense to handle conflict, you’re either thrown out or eaten away.

Conflict in the first place

Profit comes from labor. Based on this fact confirmed by many studies, it is the root of class theory to regard capitalists who take profits made by workers as exploiters. However, in reality, labor-management relations are not simple. Labor-management relations start with the employment contract between the employer and the worker. The worker agrees to the contract voluntarily, not by force.

After agreeing to the contract, shall we shut up and work according to the contract? Formally, the labor contract is a voluntary contract between the parties, but from a social point of view, it is an unequal contract. One has no capital and the other has capital. It’s better for those who have than those who don’t. The majority of workers supply the labor force and the few employers purchase the labor force. When supply is high and demand is low, the supplier must lower the price. Employers buy labor at low prices, and workers get jobs on bad terms. The employer becomes ‘A’ and the worker becomes ‘B’.

Agree and dissatisfaction intersect in labor-management relations. Workers have agreed to sell their labor to employers for a fixed wage, but their dissatisfaction cannot go away because they get less and work more due to unequal contracts. The Constitution and the Labor Law tell us to unite, negotiate and fight to change working conditions. However, there are three perspectives of looking at industrial relations. There are three forms that show how labor-management conflict is transformed.


It is often said that labor and management are not two but one. When labor and management are viewed as the same entity, it denies that labor and management are different. In this case, workers cannot become independent. Therefore, it is said that workers should not argue with employers differently or fight separately. It is of course absurd for workers to form a union independent of their employers. These labor and management officers are expressed in various variations, such as “one family between labor and management” and “common destiny in one boat”. This is mainly what users say. The unions have the same idea.

What is the psychological root of ‘No Sabuli’? Users have a ‘desire to dominate’. Employers who see corporations as their dominant territory see union formation as a rebellion that threatens their own interests. The managers, who have strongly dominated the non-union territory since their founding, were more stubborn than they could have imagined. There is ‘identification with the strong’ in the psychology of workers who cannot escape the state of domination and subordination of ‘No Sabuli’. The submissive employee cannot overcome the fear of being penalized if he resists. I have a sense of unity that the strong and I are the same in order to endure the cowardice that cannot stand up to the strong. It hides the humiliation and goes to resemble the user.

‘No Sabuli’ is the continuation of inequality. Dissatisfaction is suppressed and only consent remains. The inequality contract continues unimproved. In 2020, the union organization rate in Korea is 14.2%. However, according to simple calculations, about 85.8% of workers are subordinated and under the control of the employer. It’s odd to call it a democracy.

노사적대 (to make hostile)

poles and poles go hand in hand On the one hand, there is a strong control over the workers in order to increase their share, and on the other side, the liberation of labor is only possible by annihilating the capitalist class. In this way, there is never peace between the workers and the capitalists. Because you have to annihilate your opponent. This hostile attitude has been shared by the radical left and the far right.

The root of labor-management hostility is ‘fear and a sense of harm’ towards the other party. The capitalist fears that profits will dwindle due to difficulties in control if the management staff unites into a resisting class. So they disrespect the union and break the union by spending manpower and money. Workers with a sense of victimization show a hostile attitude, unable to shake off their fear of being harmed. My hostility stimulates the hostility of others. Behind extreme hostility is fear.

If you treat your opponent as an enemy, what remains is an uncompromising struggle. In labor-management relations, there is a fairly large space around when and how much to struggle and when to what extent to compromise. However, if hostility is high, the space becomes narrow and becomes a tightrope. What would happen if a labor citizen managed by the employer incites hostility in an overwhelming situation? A strong union is no problem. It’s fatal for workers in a state of disenfranchisement and where employers with inflated hostility rush to kill unions. The labor movement that exploded in the 1980s was a kind of fandom, but it is questionable whether such a fandom can be created in the 21st century with hostility.

Labor-management agreement

Labor and management are not the same They work for the same company, but they have different positions. If you look at the same thing, it is ‘labour-management’ and if you look at the difference, it is ‘hostile between labor and management’, but the labor-management relationship is a mixture of both. So it’s dynamic. At any time, workers may become subordinate to the employer and become ‘unmanagemental’, or the conflict may intensify, leading to ‘management hostility’. If we forget the difference, it is a joke, and if we forget the sameness, it is the enemy. So you need a balance.

The psychological root of ‘labor-management immobility’ is self-esteem. If you have self-esteem, you won’t tolerate humiliation. He doesn’t want to kill his opponent though. It only changes the situation. Both workers and employers are dignified lives. Respect your rights if you know your dignity. Employers who are tainted by the lust for power or possessiveness infringe on the rights of labor citizens. The union was created to defend rights against greed. It shines when you move on to a strong self-esteem that respects character rather than hostility, but does not forgive greed.

If you know ‘labor-management immobility’, you will pursue a dynamic balance. Equilibrium in the present can fix unequal contracts. There is a need for dynamism to continuously improve the labor at a disadvantage. A dynamic balance that improves without giving in or falling into ruin is the best art for dealing with conflict.

I saw it often when the government changed. In fact, it is not a pro-labor regime, but when a government with such an image comes into power, the union raises momentum, saying, “The world has changed”, and when a pro-business government comes in, the employer reveals resentment, saying, “Now you guys are behind.” The retaliation mentality that relies on the situation shows the immaturity of dealing with conflicts. Labor-management relations are not a death-and-death war. Industrial relations is the art of dealing with conflict.

Representative Ayu ([email protected])

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