Posts Tagged: business relationships

Conflict at Work: Who Started it?

Is it them, or is iyou? Who started it anyway? 

Resolving Conflict takes skill, time and effort. If you can do it well, you can save marriages, business partnerships, and huge organizations from emotional and financial divorce. But how can you resolve conflict when your personally invested? How do you manag

e the emotions enough to keep the trust in the relationship strong?

Nothing can rev the engine like a hearty disagreement in the office. Whether sparks are flying or it is stone cold silent, conflict is a part of normal office life. You may not be able to resolve all conflict, but you can learn to manage it in a way that keeps you from losing yourself (and your shirt too).

Zack was a partner in charge of sales of a midsize company. His strengths included building relationships, product knowledge, and taking the attitude that, behind each sale was a real person. His team liked him and he liked his job. But he felt at odds with his business partner, Pete. When Pete offered a suggestion or ask about progress, Zack got defensive. The more this happened, the less he and his partner talked. This lack of communication affected everyone in the company, and it felt like the company was going in two different directions. Zack came into my office asking, “How can I talk to my partner without getting negative and combative?”

I consider Zack a superstar exec for two reasons; 1) he valued his business relationship more than saving face, and 2) instead of blaming his partner, he sought to resolve the conflict by owning his part.

It turns out, that Zack was acting more like an employee than a partner. Zack respected Pete’s expertise and sense of command so much, too much in fact, that he felt inferior. Zack was a partner in writing, and a subordinate in action. Pete’s self-confidence triggered Zack’s self-doubt. His insecurities resulted in passive anger, defensiveness and un-aligned vision for the company. This hurts the bottom line.

Zack and I talked about the value of the strengths he brought to the business. Zack developed a new script for himself that included “being an equal” and “having valuable input”. Zack was able to accept Pete’s strong style of leadership without taking offense to it, and was able to validate his own contributions to the business without considering them to be “less than”. This didn’t happen over night, but it did happen, and the partnership started to thrive again.


Consider the value: there is great value in the synergy, effectiveness and creativity of working relationships. Relationships are worth their weight in gold if kept healthy. How important is it for your success to make the relationship work?

Own your part of the conflict: it is easy to blame the other person. However, a good leader takes ownership of his contribution to the conflict and seeks to make a mends, make peace, and make resolution.

Ask for Help: often two people need a mediator to help resolve an issue. The working relationship between the two may be important enough to seek outside help.

Take a Break: if you are committed to finding a solution, take a break to think things over with a time and place to reconvene. Give yourself and the other party time to consider the problem and options for solutions.

Win Win: Any good resolution will cause both parties to feel as though they have won something- that the results were good for both parties. Work to identify and communicate your needs. If you are able to trust the intentions of the other party, then working to maintain the relationship is a priority.

Cut Ties: If the working relationship has come to the point where trust is gone, there may not be the time and the willingness it takes to build that trust back for future relationship. You may need to go your separate ways if 1) your conscience is pricked for ethical reasons, 2) the other party is self-interested to the point your requests are ignored, 3) threats/bullying/hostility means you trusted the wrong people and it’s time to let the Titanic sink without you on it.

More times than not, cutting ties can be avoided if proper understanding between two good willed parties is expressed.

Now it’s your turn. What Conflict Resolution Strategies have worked for you? Have you ever stayed in a working relationship long past the date it STOPPED working? What did you learn from it?

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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