Tips on Resolving Conflict for Non-Confrontational Small Business Owners

by / Friday, 25 July 2014 / Published in Productive Business Tips

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People are amazingly unpredictable, with the ability to exceed expectations, or conversely to plunge well below them. It is this unpredictability that is simultaneously a great X factor for small business as well as a source of potential problems. For some business owners, managing conflict is a challenge that they relish, but for others the idea of having to be the bearer of bad news or chastise someone for a problem that they caused is a source of major anxiety. Still, letting things slide in business is a recipe for disaster. It is always better to fix an outstanding issue before it grows into a major problem.

What is the issue? Determine who is responsible. Before you confront anyone over the problem at hand, you should have as solid an understanding as possible so that you can act appropriately and not randomly assign blame. For people who don’t like conflict in the first place, getting as clear a picture of the events which transpired will also minimize the time you must spend remediating the problem. Get the perspective of all parties separately if possible, in order to arrive at the clearest picture of what really went wrong. This technique is also great for resolving disputes between employees, since once you are armed with the conflicting perspectives of both people involved, you can begin to show them the logic of the other in order to help them see eye to eye.

In the event of a third party creating conflict for you, determine if you have any leverage. An example here would be a supplier who has promised a delivery that is now very late. Since you are a customer, you have leverage in that you can take your business elsewhere, but that may not be the tack you want to take right off the bat. Explain to your supplier what the issue is and why it is a problem for you, as well as the steps that they need to take within a time frame that you designate. If they are still resistant, then you can introduce your leverage to try and get the situation fixed. If the third party continues to refuse to cooperate, you may have to terminate your relationship with them, or at least effect a compromise solution while you find another supplier. But what if the relationship is essential, or you have no leverage? This is the scenario that is probably the worst for those who hate conflict. Approach the issue through the eyes of the third party, and illustrate for them why it is in their best interest to effect a mutually satisfactory solution.

Before you engage in conflict resolution, here are a few exercises that can help put you in the right frame of mind. 

  • Take five minutes to relax and breathe deeply. This will help calm you down and organize your thoughts.
  • Write down the problem, and then an ideal outcome, as well as some compromises that you would be willing to arrive at. These solutions represent your primary goals going in to mediation.
  • Remember times when you dealt with conflict in a positive manner in the past. How did you manage to effect a positive resolution?

Photo Credit to Koka Sexton on Flickr 

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