Avoiding conflict is the best approach, but some conflict in business is inevitable with partners, employees, boards of directors, customers, and more. Being skilled at negotiating conflict can help you resolve it to the best possible satisfaction of the involved parties. Look for a way that all parties gain something they want (a win-win situation) (Chron, 2021).
Tips to avoid conflict in your business
- Adopt a culture of accepting constructive feedback and a policy of bringing up concerns respectfully.
- Avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes.
- Spell out important aspects of the business with your partners ahead of time, including the vision for the future of the business, business goals, a monetization schedule, your target market, plans for having an office and hiring staff, exit plans, etc.
- Avoid entering a business relationship with friends and family, but if you do, spell out and agree on terms to guide interactions from the outset.
- Adopt a written zero-tolerance policy for harassment, abuse, and unfair treatment based on race, gender, religion, etc.
- Create a dispute resolution agreement, which outlines rules of engagement.
Conflict resolution steps
- Look at the problem from the perspective of the other party.
- Separate the problem from the people involved. Look at them as partners in solving the problem; this will reduce feelings of fear and anger.
- Identify the interests of each party.
- Try to find common ground.
- Brainstorm options for solving the problem.
- Each side presents their argument for their highest priority option using objective information.
- Identify the best possible solution.
- If negotiating the conflict fails, try involving a neutral third party.
(Chron, 2021; ANI, 2016)
To mediate a conflict between two parties
- Try to get to know the parties a little before talking about the conflict.
- Meet with each party separately first.
American Negotiation Institute. How to Resolve Disputes and Manage Conflicts. American Negotiation Institute. Published December 16, 2016. Accessed August 18, 2021. https://americannegotiationinstitute.com/how-to-resolve-disputes-and-manage-conflicts/.
Conflict and Negotiation. Multiple articles. Small Business – Chron.com. Accessed October 15, 2021.
Shonk K. Types of Conflict in Business Negotiation—and How to Avoid Them. PON – Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Published July 12, 2021. Accessed August 18, 2021.