Conflicts Inside Companies

There are conflicts in every company. Some are minor. Some are serious, toxic, interfering with the goals of the company. How does a company handle them?

Some executives  believe a turbulent situation is best cured by firing the people involved. Maybe. Firing is an expensive solution. It can cost as much to fire and replace someone as it does to pay one or two years’ salary. Firing also has human costs. Friends of the former employee lose morale. Others in the company who fear they might be fired lose morale.

Other executives try training sessions or courses. The effects are limited, limited both in the time the effects last and in how deeply the courses change attitudes and behavior. The exceptions are those few courses that give students tools to look into themselves and change beliefs they want to change. Those courses produce a lifetime change and their graduates can revitalize a company.

There is another solution. Look at the problem from the viewpoints of the people in conflict.

If the members of a key team are in conflict, there is an alignment hidden underneath. The conflict need not be solved: find the alignment, and the two sides can agree to disagree but move forward to the company’s goals because of the alignment.

If the people are in a team that is stuck, not moving forward, not being creative, the approach is different. Motivate the team to inspire themselves to high performance. Inspire themselves? Yes, so they take ownership of the problem and of its solution.

The problem can be a key employee, or someone who once was key, but now is dysfunctional. He or she no longer contributes to the goals of the company but has valuable knowledge and skills. Dysfunctional people often have a hidden agenda. Work with them, find the hidden agenda, and discuss it openly. It is no longer hidden. The company will improve because of the discussion. The individual will often realign with the company’s goals.  At the worst, it will become clear that the person cannot realign (and usually, why they can’t), and they may need to be fired. The open discussion will have made it clear to all why this is the case, and likely there won’t be problems with morale.

There is the problem of an executive, perhaps recently promoted, who has technical expertise but has not yet learned how to deal effectively with emotional situations among staff. This can lead to lots of conflicts. Coach the executive to be effective with emotions and those conflicts begin to disappear. New ones of the same type no longer appear.

One thing is critical to help a company do any of these, or to teach senior executives to do them themselves. That is rapport. The consultant must create rapport with the people he or she is working with, the quicker the better. Executives and staff need to feel that the consultant is on their side, is trying to understand them, is compassionate, is nonjudgmental, keeps confidential matters confidential, and takes responsibility for his – the consultant’s – actions and for guiding the people he works with to the best possible solution. The consultant and those he is helping need to be an aligned team.

 

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