How do you solve a problem like ‘business conflict?’
While conflict makes for compelling drama, it’s a coffin nail for businesses. Gone unfettered, conflict is more damaging than any external market factors. “Loss of productivity, creativity, innovation and, of course, stress are big parts of unresolved conflict,” warns conflict and communications expert Scott Dutton. “It leads to people leaving; it also impacts on your brand and your reputation.”
The objective is to never have to manage conflict by instead preventing it entirely. To achieve that, transparency is required. “It’s about putting in the conditions, boundaries, guidelines and expectations to prevent it from reaching that point,” explains Dutton. “Without clarity, that can definitely lead to conflict.”
Establishing clear ground rules is particularly pertinent in the case of navigating internal competition. “It engenders innovation but if it goes too far it creates division,” Dutton cautions. “When it becomes adversarial rather than collaborative, that’s when the impact becomes significant.”
And so, a clear culture around how that competition works is imperative. For example, if agents have assigned areas within the agency’s territory there needs to be prescribed guidelines around how they’ll communicate when approached by a vendor from another’s area.
Not all conflict is easy to prevent, however. External conflicts, including bond disputes, arguments over maintenance or fair wear and tear disagreements, are especially difficult to avoid so conflict resolution measures are a must. In addition to the ramifications already highlighted regarding unbridled conflict, the wasted time – not to mention the money – is crippling. “It has a financial impact because a lot of your time goes towards resolving conflict and that’s not productive,” explains Dutton.
Still, there will always be circumstances where resolving – or at least slowing the development of – a conflict becomes necessary. “If the principal starts seeing things moving in that direction, they really have to reflect and ask themselves what they need to put in place that’s going to stop it from progressing,” advises Dutton. “Sometimes if it reaches that point, they need someone external to help with facilitating change.” And that’s unlikely to be cheap.
Every business’ goal is to operate like a well-oiled machine but that takes more than luck. Avoiding conflict is a skill not to mention a shared trait of great business owners. Simply waiting to see if conflict occurs and then dealing with it accordingly only wastes time and money while damaging your brand. “Go in with a more productive manner, inform people, let them know before it becomes an issue that if it does, it’s an easier situation to deal with,” advises Dutton.
To learn more about conflict prevention and management, attend Scott Dutton’s presentation, Conflict Intelligence at Summit 2020. Get your tickets now.