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Seven Steps to Handling Conflict in Business

Seven Steps to Handling Conflict in Business

Some days it seems I’m playing referee at home and in the office. One minute I’m making a ruling on whose turn it is to sweep the kitchen floor and the next minute I’m mediating an emotional discussion between a vendor and a client. Just like my home life, the business world is sprinkled with conflict and disagreements. And it’s often a challenge to hold onto my Christian values while navigating professional battle zones. 

While part of me wishes I could ignore festering contention, I know the right thing to do is to resolve conflict quickly so everyone can return to business. After all, conflict in the workplace leads to stress, absenteeism, loss of productivity, high turnover and even legal problems. So even though it’s not my favorite part of the job, addressing conflict is sometimes necessary. 

If you find yourself dealing with disagreements and complaints in your business, try the following tips on how to handle conflict with wisdom and grace. 

How to Handle Conflict With Wisdom and Grace

1. Write it down. Nothing brings clarity to the situation more quickly than writing down the issues. Explore everyone’s perspective with pen and paper and jot down your position in concise bullet points so you will be prepared to discuss them clearly. 

2. Go directly to the source. It’s obvious that we shouldn’t gossip when it comes to a friend’s marriage or a neighbor’s illness…so why do we accept gossip in the business world? If you have a conflict with someone, don't talk with someone else about it. Go directly to the source. Simple, but not easy to follow.

3. Recognize the other person’s position. Even if you disagree and you feel the other person is totally unreasonable, find something you admire or respect about the other person and lead with that. It could be as simple as saying, “I’ve always admired the work that you do and I respect your knowledge about the industry.” Give them the honor of hearing something true and uplifting first. Remember, Proverbs 15:1.

4. Keep it simple. Whether you are conversing in person or in writing, express your position quickly and focus only on the issue at hand. The more you elaborate or try to defend or justify your position, the more you open up for debate and diversion. 

5. Be solution oriented. You may never agree on all the issues. And that’s ok. The goal is to agree on a solution. This is hard for us women, because we want to know that everyone is happy and that everybody likes us. But in a business conflict, we have to set aside our desire to be loved by all, and focus on finding a resolution to the problem that everyone can live with. 

6. Be honest. Again, this should be a no-brainer but somehow we forget the basics. It’s important to keep in mind that honesty prevails. If you are trying to spare someone’s feelings then you have noble intentions, but you have to let them know the truth with kindness. People can’t grow and improve their skills if you don’t let them know it’s necessary. 

7. End with compassion and confirmation. Once you reach an agreement, be sure to confirm it verbally and again in writing. If you don’t document the conversation and the resolution, you may find yourself right back in the battle zone again. 

What tips do you have for handling conflict in business? Share them with us here!

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur—a mentor to moms who are running a business that supports their values of faith and family. As president and founder of the International Christian Mompreneur Network, she empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace. Join the International Christian Mompreneur Network for free and receive the Ten Commandments of a Mompreneur toolkit! 

Publication date: October 23, 2012