Conflict within any business can be troublesome, but in a family-run business, conflict can be downright crippling. On the other hand, healthy relationships in a family-run business can lead to greater long-term success. So, what differentiates family businesses that operate peacefully and without major conflict from those that run into conflict regularly? Having an effective conflict management strategy. In other words, the more successful family-run businesses tend to resolve conflict before it becomes a major issue through an open and honest communication, strong leadership, and the ability to forgive.
Why Develop a Conflict Management Strategy?
In a family-run business, it might seem counterintuitive to many to have a system in place for handling conflicts. After all, you’re all family—so why not resolve your business-related conflicts in the same manner you would resolve a personal conflict? In fact, there are many reasons as to why it’s important to handle family-related business issues differently. For starters, family businesses, by their very nature, are more prone to internal conflict due to the dynamics of the relationships involved. And unfortunately, many businesses fail every year because they have no defined strategy for handling these conflicts.
Components of a Conflict Management Strategy
So, you’re looking to reduce conflict within your family-run business and you acknowledge that you need a conflict management strategy to do so. However, you’re not sure what the main components of such a strategy should be. Generally, any fair conflict management process should encompass the following:
- established ground rules
- a way to formally air conflicts
- invention options for resolution
Essentially, every family-run business should have an agreed-upon hierarchy of decision makers along with rules of engagement for handling any conflict. Furthermore, employees should have a formal way to address and share conflicts or issues with decision-makers; airing of work-related grievances, for example, should take place in the workplace and not at home or outside of business hours.
Once conflict in the family business is brought up, all family members/employees should be involved in coming to a resolution. This should be done as objectively as possible and with industry standards and/or outside, third parties brought in when necessary.
Understanding the Role of Forgiveness
Of course, all of these conflict resolution measures will unfortunately not mean much in the long-run if the family members running a business together aren’t able to forgive each other for the mistakes made or conflicts that have taken place. This is a common issue within family-run businesses, as it is easy for individuals to take things personally or to hold grudges against other employees/members of the family. The end result is a bitterness and resentment that does the company no good.
Therefore, a successful conflict management system needs to address not only the initial conflict and come to a resolution that’s as universally agreed-upon as possible, but must also address the issue of forgiveness. Speak to your employees, then, about the power of forgiveness in your line of work. Help them handle anger in the workplace by following a three-step program of forgiveness when working with other family members.
The first step should be for the employee to address the issue, of course, by filing a formal report of conflict. From there, once the issue is considered to be formally resolved, encourage workers to identify the source of their lingering resentment. Is it caused by fear over missing out on a promotion? Is it caused by anger over a business decisions that they did not agree with? Either way, it’s important to talk these issues out with other members of the team, openly and honestly. Only through open and honest communication will forgiveness be able to be reached.
Ultimately, employees in family businesses should be able to reach a decision to forgive, not necessarily for the others involved (although they should have the good of the business in mind), but for themselves as well. By forgiving, your workers can find inner peace and rebuild their relationships with family members. The end result is a stronger team and therefore a stronger business.
Of course, when your business runs into a conflict, implementing conflict management and forgiveness may seem easier said than done. Over time, however, you will find that the process does work. It just takes some time and effort on your part to ensure that every member of the family business is on the same page in regards to your conflict management strategy.