Business Life Lesson – Conflict Resolution


Conflicts are an inevitable part of any relationship – be it with your colleagues at work, spouse, or children at home or with friends. However, the outcome of conflicts depends on how you deal with them.

If you are human, you will have conflicts. Most conflicts occur due to perceived differences between the parties involved. Conflicts can help you learn a lot about yourself. Do not avoid conflict, hoping it would go away. It never does. Address conflicts early on and nip it in the bud before it turns ugly.

Here is what I do when I deal with conflicts:

  • Time out: I find this very effective. By taking a time out, I can think. I am able to consider the issues and my responses. You do not need to solve issues right now. Remember, you are looking for a long term resolution, not a duct-tape fix.
  • Communication: What does a kid do when s/he is angry? Stomp? Throw a tantrum? And perhaps stop talking for a while? But then the kid realizes keeping mum is not helping him/her and they start talking. Communication is the key to managing conflicts effectively. By expressing feelings, you also acknowledge that a problem exists.
  • Focus on the problem – not the individual/s: Conflicts escalate because a professional issue becomes a personal one. When egos become part of the conflict, it is difficult to arrive at a resolution. Hence, focus on the problem, not the people. Use “I” statements and avoid “You” statements. Also, statements that begin like, “Any logical person …” is a strict no-no. Remember, the goal of the conflict is not to prove anyone right or wrong. It is about generating a win/win situation for all parties involved.
  • Find common areas of agreement: When undergoing sales training, you are told to ask “Yes” questions; i.e., ask questions that elicit a “Yes” response from prospects: “Do you want to increase your revenue?” Who is going to say no to that? The same principle applies here. “Sounds like you are upset about my tardiness, aren’t you?” Getting all parties to agree on something – however small – is an important step in conflict resolution. Agree on the problem; agree on the procedure to follow; agree on the objective.
  • Action plan: Determine the actions that are needed to come to a successful resolution. One tool that I find particularly useful is the PMI – Plus, Minus, Interesting. (by Edward de Bono). It is a great tool to help focus on the problem and focuses on altering perceptions. It is easier to say, “Hey, let’s do a PMI on this issue” rather than “I disagree with you”. Individuals involved in the conflict tend to perceive limited available options when this is the time to “think outside the box”.

Managing conflicts is never easy. As a leader or manager, it comes with the territory. As one of the parties to the conflict, it is even harder. But respecting other people’s views and opinions will go a long way in developing a healthy working relationship.

Discuss this: You are a small business employee. You have issues with your boss who is also the owner of the small business. Every one of your initiatives is questioned, and you are micro-managed. Conflicts seem to occur at every turn. How would you deal with this situation?