The Strategist

Five principles to resolve internal conflicts in company

12/21/2018 - 09:38

No matter how friendly your company is, there can be occasional disputes and disagreements. Hushing up or avoiding them is an unproductive way: it will not allow the company to develop and find new ways to solve problems. On the other hand, it is impossible to argue endlessly. Is there any other way to resolve disputes?

A rare dispute is resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties. Imagine that you have a discussion with a neighbor about his tree, which fell on the territory of your site. Who should take it away? Who can keep it for firewood? Who will pay for the damage?

If you do not agree with your neighbor, then there is a judicial system with its procedures and rules to resolve your dispute, which will determine what the truth is. After the judgment is passed, your dispute will be considered closed, even if one of the parties did not get what they wanted. It’s just how it goes.

The system of principles actually works the same in business. It will not be possible to simply encourage employees to think independently and to defend what they think is right. They need to provide a way to overcome differences and move forward.

Although employees are often able to cope on their own, there are situations where people cannot agree on what the truth is and what to do with it. Then you need to be guided by principles of the company and the decision-making procedure.

Principles must not be violated even with mutual consent.

Principles are a company law: you cannot break the law simply because you and someone else have agreed on this. The duty of each employee is to honestly express an opinion and take responsibility for it. If the employee believes that the principles cannot provide effective resolution of problems or disagreements, he should suggest how to change or improve them, rather than doing what he wants.

All obey the same standards of conduct.

In the event of any dispute, both parties must demonstrate the same degree of consistency, open-mindedness and self-righteousness, and treat each other with mutual respect. “Judges” should apply uniform standards to both parties and provide feedback in accordance with these standards.

It happens that the feedback is biased for various reasons (excessive demands, shifting the blame and so on). It’s wrong. The person who made the mistake should receive the most serious feedback. Otherwise, he will decide that the problem was not in him or that both parties are equally to blame. Of course, this conversation should take place calmly and without undue emotion.

When criticizing a decision and/or the person making it, consider the wider context.

It is important to consider individual solutions in the widest possible context. For example, if the person in charge has a general idea, and the decision under discussion includes a small detail, the decision should be discussed and evaluated in the context of a broader vision.

Do not leave serious conflicts unresolved.

It is sometimes easier to get away from the conflict in the short term. Unfortunately, the consequences can be very sad. It is important to resolve the contradictions that arise, not with the help of a convenient compromise, but with achievement of mutual understanding. In most cases, this process should be transparent not only for the parties to the conflict, but also for all relevant to it (sometimes for the entire company): this improves the quality of decision-making and stimulates the corporate culture of open discussion of controversial situations.

Do not let disputes on trifles divide your company if you have reached general agreement. 

Very often, when group members agree on the main point, they start arguing over trifles and eventually become enemies, although they must be united by a large common goal. In psychology, this phenomenon is called "the narcissism of small differences."

Do not let something like this happen to you. Accept that there are no perfect people, and enjoy good relationships. Keep the whole picture in your head.

Based on “Principles: Life and Work” by Ray Dalio