10 Tips for Preventing Conflict in Your Business

Conflict in Business

Do you want to prevent or minimize conflict in a corporate/business setting? What you’ll need to do is increase the quality, clarity and frequency, of communication — making it integrated, effective, and consistent.

How do you do that? Improve yourself. You are the communication. There can be no separation between who you are (at least in the minds of others) and the quality of your communication. The communication model must have integrity, consistency and clarity. In other words, don’t send mixed messages.

Minimizing Business Conflicts

In order to minimize issues in your business, you’ll need to develop protocols for your company, enabling your team to more effectively deal with conflict. Conflict resolution design systems should start with the basics: effective communication skills. There should be conflict resolution training for human resource personnel as well as your managers in operations, marketing, and finance.

Regardless of your company’s size or number of team members, there’s an integrated, specialized protocol that is user-friendly and geared toward the average person.

“Conflict can destroy a team which hasn’t spent time learning to deal with it.” –Thomas Isgar

Prevention is Better than Reaction

In general, it’s always better to prevent a problem from happening as opposed to finding a solution when it does happen. For example, it’s better to get the flu vaccine and never have the flu at all rather than try to treat it once you get it.

The preventive aspect of your conflict prevention protocol assists you in identifying problem areas in your company and taking affirmative steps to prevent incidents before they happen. The smallest of conflicts can lead to lawsuits, terminations and – at the very least – lowered productivity and low morale. Low morale breeds more of the same. It’s much easier to prevent conflict than to remedy it once it’s occurred.

10 Tips for Preventing Conflict in Your Business

1. Select your company’s dominant method of communication: e-mail, memos, group text messaging, or in-person managing.

Once you’ve selected a dominant method, if at all possible do not deviate from the method you have selected as this can cause confusion. For example, if your company historically has made important announcements by memo, switching to e-mail without giving advance notice to your team members may confuse them. It also my have a “chilling” effect on those who are not as computer literate as others.

Make sure everyone knows it is the preferred mode of communication. Don’t change it unless it doesn’t work anymore and you have announced the new, preferred means of communication.

2. Be consistent in your dissemination of information to your managers and executives.

Don’t divulge important information to one or some of your key team members and not others. The ones who have not directly received the communication will hear about it from the others anyway and they will feel excluded and oftentimes betrayed by the selectivity of the communication. Additionally, you can count on the fact that the message that you sent will be delivered differently by others so that the quality and integrity of the communication will be eroded – if not destroyed – in the process.

3. Issue thoughtful, direct communication.

Don’t engage in knee-jerk dissemination of information because it relieves you of the burden of interpretation. There is a difference between delegation and dumping. Your employees and co-workers will know the difference even if you think they don’t.

4. Make sure the message content has integrity.

That is, make sure you practice what you preach. For example, if your company’s stated philosophy with respect to compensation is that the “sky’s the limit,” make sure that your company’s compensation policies are consistent with that philosophy. If they are not, it won’t take long for word to get around that no good deed(s) in the company will be rewarded.

More than almost anything, it is imperative that a company’s message be clear and unequivocal in its application. This should start at the top and work its way down to the most important person in your company – the one who answers the telephones!

5. Lead by example, not by false words and promises.

Remember the old adage: “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s amazing that in our society (our companies, our families, and our schools) we seem to have forgotten these important words — or we ignore them.

The folks at the top make the most important communication statement daily by their example: they either inspire their team members (a positive communication) or they demoralize them (a negative communication with far-reaching consequences). Once your employees are onto you, they probably won’t confront you with your lack of integrity, but they will learn they cannot trust you or the company’s culture. And when that happens, a virus takes shape and takes hold. The results can be devastating to your company and to your reputation.

6. Build people up; don’t tear them down.

There are a number of top management people who by virtue of their “success” think they are above reproach. In fact, they are so far beyond (ahead?) of the rest of us, that they deem it appropriate to verbally abuse their partners and peers in front of other team members. This passive-aggressive behavior breeds contempt and distrust among the ranks.

Taking an active approach to problem solving involves “modeling” a positive paradigm. This provides clear, unequivocal communication to employees as to how to behave in a similar setting.

7. Listen, listen, listen.

Especially if you are a key executive or manager, not listening to your team members, clients, and/or vendors will cost you. It will cost you your time, training efforts, money, and sometimes even your job. Listening is the ability to walk in another’s shoes with your judgment suspended. Don’t fail to listen. You do so at your own and your company’s peril.

8. Tell the truth; don’t lie.

Understandably, there are times where the entire truth of a situation is best left unsaid  or is simply not ripe for publication. At that time, be truthful. It’s better to say, “It’s not time yet to explain everything that’s happened, but I/we will explain as much as we can as soon as we can,” than to lie about the circumstances and be found out later.

There is integrity in the truth and once you develop a reputation for being truthful, it’s amazing how much slack your employees and co-workers will grant you. Don’t try to cover up the situation or pretend it doesn’t exist. You may think you can fool your employees but you can’t, at least not for long. The “underground network” that exists in every business organization will prevent you from fooling anyone.

9. Be a functional organization.

What does this mean? If your corporate communication has integrity, consistency and clarity, your company is probably functional. If your company’s mode of communication is unclear, inconsistent, selective and disingenuous, your company is at best dysfunctional. People of quality are not attracted to dysfunctional organizations.

10. If you’re not a good communicator, take some preventive steps and hire someone who is and let them do what they know how to do.

Don’t continue to pretend that as a leader you are an effective communicator. Set aside your ego for the good of the whole company and hire someone who can do what you cannot. What you will save in terms of lost time, productivity and employee morale will more than make up for the difference.

Quick Chart: 10 Tips for Preventing Conflict in Your Business

Number6 Qualities of a Great Mediator
1. Select your company’s dominant method of communication: e-mail, memos, group text messaging, or in-person managing.
2.Be consistent in your dissemination of information to your managers and executives.
3.Issue thoughtful, direct communication.
4.Make sure the message content has integrity.
5.Lead by example, not by false words and promises.
6.Build people up; don’t tear them down.
7.Listen, listen, listen.
8.Tell the truth; don't lie.
9.Be a functional organization.
10.If you’re not a good communicator, take some preventive steps and hire someone who is and let them do what they know how to do.