Are You a Conflict Averse Owner or Manager?

November 16, 2017

Although the wish for every business owner or manager is that there are no conflicts to deal with, this is rarely the case. There are usually some types of issues to confront although some will be minor, some major, and some more frequent than others.

Conflicts might be among employees, between managers and employees, or between employees and customers. How and when conflicts are handled makes a difference in how well a business operates, thus, either increasing or decreasing profits and/or customer satisfaction. 

Conflict Averse Manager

A conflict averse manager is one who wants to simply avoid conflict. Generally, the following techniques are used in an attempt to avoid conflict:

•    Simply avoid the issue completely as if it did not exist
•    Procrastinate in addressing the issue
•    Try to change the subject when conflicts arise
•    Pass the problem off to someone else
•    Try to appease everyone involved

In a business situation one has to ask, “What is the purpose of not addressing an issue immediately?” If issues are not immediately confronted, then solutions are never found and the issue itself is never resolved.

Conflict Examples

There are boundless numbers of issues that can plague a business from time to time.

•    An employee who is always late for work but the manager says nothing
•    Employees bickering among themselves as to who should do what
•    A customer has a complaint and is met with disdain from an employee
•    Procedures are changed and met with employee resistance

This list, of course, can go on and on. A common denominator is how these and similar issues are handled or not handled.

Struggling for an Answer

While reducing or eliminating conflict is a lofty goal of any owner or manager, a higher goal must be to make decisions that benefit the company regardless of how uneasy that decision might be for the owner or manager. Making decisions regarding conflict should be viewed as being constructive for an business rather than destructive. This is a management skill that can and should be learned over time. Discord may be handled by:

•    Listening to each side and allowing each to voice grievances as well as perceived reasons for the conflict
•    Explaining reasons for resolutions decided
•    Providing positive encouragement
•    Being aware of background and socio-economic differences that exist
•    Seeking advice, if possible, from other experienced managers and how similar issues were handled with positive outcomes
•    Respecting everyone for their individual opinions and allowing this attitude to exist in the workplace
•    Maintaining a sense of calmness with everyone involved
•    Defining what is acceptable behavior for the circumstance

Fear Conflict or Embrace It

Assuming that every owner or manager at one time or another will face some type of conflict, he or she can either fear conflict or embrace it. Embracing conflict does not mean that the owner or manager relishes conflict with the hope that conflict actually occurs. It does mean, however, that when conflict does arise, it is an opportunity to learn and improve the business. Disagreements among employees or between employees and customers can be viewed as a way for everyone to grow with the business, change attitudes, and develop new skills. 

When positive approaches are taken to solve issues rather than hiding from issues, problems are solved, respect is gained, and progress is made. On the other hand, a conflict averse manager solves no problems, loses respect, and causes productivity and progress to go backwards rather than forward.