Managing Conflict In Your Small Business
Posted on 21st June 2022
While we’re all watching the escalation of conflict in Ukraine with understandable concern, it’s also worth thinking about smaller scale conflicts that affect your business.
It could be anything from a customer complaining about your service or goods to an employee who feels that they have experienced discrimination in the workplace.
While large companies might have a dedicated customer service team and in-house legal expertise you will probably need to deal with it all as a small business owner.
This can be stressful and tiring but here are steps you can take to improve your communication and conflict resolution skills so you can achieve fast and effective solutions when you find yourself in these situations.
Conflict is normal
While many of us dislike confrontations, they are a part of everyday life. Trying to avoid them can actually add to your feelings of anxiety and stress.
People will disagree from time to time and often their responses will be emotional. The more successful you are in your business the more likely it becomes that you will experience varying types of conflict. Here are four ways you can recognise and resolve them.
Four keys to coping with conflict
1. Choose your battles
It’s tempting to fight every inch of the way when you’re sure you are right and someone else is wrong, but this can only lead to increased tension. Bearing in mind that you are probably shouldering responsibility to find a solution it’s worth asking yourself what outcome you want and how you can achieve it quickly. When you have this mindset you won’t have to think about ‘defeats’ or ‘climbing down’, you’ll simply find a resolution that works and move on.
2. Communicate effectively
Making sure you have clear terms and conditions is a good way to start any working relationship. You can then speak with confidence about how and why an issue or misunderstanding has arisen. When you have meetings, take the time to confirm what you have agreed in a brief email and keep a copy for your records. Our memories can play tricks on us sometimes, so reminding someone what they have agreed with a copy of your email can diffuse the situation.
Simply tell people that clarity, transparency and honesty are important to you, so you want to confirm the details.
3. Exercise empathy
While some people are natural empaths it is a skill that all business leaders need and you can improve your empathetic understanding. When you take a step back and look at things from someone else’s point of view it’s often much easier to respond to them with creative solutions that can help to keep everyone happy.
4. Money isn’t always the answer
Have you ever complained only to be offered a voucher for your next purchase when you have no intention of buying from that company again? It’s frustrating and it shows that they haven’t tried to understand why you are complaining. It’s important to take the time to define the problem before trying to offer a solution. An apology might be all that’s needed.
However, in some cases, you might take the view that a full refund or compensation is the best solution even if you don’t believe the complaint or concern is well-founded. It’s simply a matter of the time it will take and the stress it will cause to try and convince someone that their expectations are unreasonable. Most of all, you don’t want to have a reputation as a business that doesn’t listen or doesn’t care about its customers and employees.
Do you have a conflict strategy?
While every conflict will be different, you can empower yourself and your team by having a clear approach to how you deal with issues and complaints, both internally and externally.
This might include how you will respond to a long-standing customer or employee who has never complained before compared with a new customer or supplier who perhaps doesn’t understand the product or service you provide.
Whatever the case, your conflict strategy should:
acknowledge their feelings
make it clear that you are willing to listen
confirm that you understand their concerns
deliver your agreed solution
confirm that the solution has resolved the issue
Even with a carefully designed process and a sympathetic approach some people won’t be happy with the solutions you offer. It’s worth identifying a trusted third person who can get involved to mediate a resolution if you are unable to find one. This might be an advisor from your professional organisation or an independent HR consultant for employee issues for example.
Please get in touch to find out how Andromeda Business Consulting can help you create an effective conflict strategy and develop the skills you need to implement it successfully.
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