Conflict in Business

We all hopefully go into business with the intent for bigger and better things, or for financial riches or the lifestyle working for yourself is meant to bring i.e being accountable to self. This is all good in theory but what happens when a point of conflict comes into play?Conflict can come from numerous fronts- from home, from your business partner or from clients; but from my experience the biggest issue and the one with the most potential for damage or destruction to a business is from business partners disagreeing.

This can become a cancer for the business if not eradicated.

So why is there conflict?

  • Differing personalities?
  • Differing opinions on the direction of the business?
  • Power struggles?
  • Lack of defined roles?
  • Imbalance of workloads and ‘fairness’?
  • Inequality in remuneration or benefits?
  • Etc

So what do you do? One approach is to understand how it is you deal with conflict in the first place, as we all deal with it differently. One great model is the TKI Model, or the ‘Thomas- Kilmann Instrument tool.’ This identifies where you sit in the 5 various conflict management styles by the use of a simple survey to rank your status. The ranges are shown in the diagram below.


Interaction MatrixThese styles show the varying degrees of assertiveness and cooperativeness we use as our ‘default’ style and how one or more may dominate our style. Like a lot of these tools, the TKI model doesn’t state there is any one best way, but rather it allows an understanding of the dominant areas and allows for methods as to how to perhaps modify your approach to various situations.

If you find yourself in a level of conflict, one starting point is to complete such a tool to see your style and learn tactics to modify or to deal with people with competing styles. Another strategy is to seek an independent third party mediator (maybe a coach?) or a professional counsellor? The main key is to not allow business conflict to destroy the goals you are attempting to achieve. Get in early and focus on a resolution to solve and work together for the vision of the business. There are never any winners in a war, so don’t let your place of business become one!

Tony Ozanne
Small Fish Business Coaching Canberra

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