There are many entrepreneurs who are not prepared for conflict or sometimes intentionally avoid it. They have so strong passion, vision, and focus that they cannot even imagine someone disagreeing, and less fighting to the death. The fact is that startups are made up of very smart people, with intellects and emotions, are working in close proximity under pressure, so conflict occurs.
Usually, business conflict is constructive. It should be embraced through the maze of change and innovation that is part of all the successful businesses. Surround yourself with good people, and you will feel good, but the bricks will hurt later.
On the other hand, the unmanaged and constant conflict will drive the startup to be dis-functional. There are some simple rules of the thumb against constructive conflict resolution. These are summarized from a book, named, The Five Percent: Finding Solutions to Seemingly Impossible Conflicts, by Peter T. Coleman.
- Knowing What Conflict You are In: This is first step to assess what type of conflict you are in, like win-lose, win-win, or both (competing and shared goals). All these types need different strategies and tactics. You need to learn how to identify and respond to all these types. Try to have a good business mentor to be on the right path.
- All Conflicts are not Bad: Very Often, conflict gives us the opportunities to solve our problems and bring necessary changes, to learn everything about ourselves as well as business, and to innovate, to go beyond what we know and do. Avoid irrelevantly but don’t hesitate to work with other ones.
- Whenever Possible – Cooperate: Research shows that a collaborative approach to resolving win-win and mixed motive disputes work best. Thus, you should approach conflicts with others as shared problems and try to solve together.
- Be Flexible: Distinguish your position from all the underlying needs, requirements and interest in the relationship. Your initial position may also limit your options. Openness and creativity to exploration are necessary for constructive solutions.
- Meet Face to Face & Listen Carefully: Choose a neutral location for meeting and try to listen to the other side also. Accurate information is difficult and careful listening shows respect. This will make the conflict in more constructive and friendly. Never make the mistake of sending emails and text messages as listening.
- Do not Personalize: Keep your problems separate, do not get personal with the person you are in conflict. When conflicts become personal, the stakes get higher, the rules change, emotions spike and conflicts become unmanageable.
- Be Firm, Fair, and Friendly: Research concludes that the process of handling conflicts is more important than the conflicts. Try to be more respectful, reasonable and persistent, and do not cave in.
If applied correctly, the method can make the conflicts more positive and satisfying. Coleman asserts that five percent is intractable. The issues involve won’t be resolved in the workplace. They should be avoided like religion, politics, cultural biases and personality enmity.
For others, you must engage, and bring closure to the conflict or argument. Closure of businesses includes results in a written form with outlined activities and terms and follow-on milestones.
The successful entrepreneurs are skillful and creative in handling conflicts, and seek constructive conflicts with stakeholders. The results are more consensus, better decisions, and better communication.