A significant conflict with a customer, employee, supplier or partner is always disrupting. The more that these disagreements are permitted to escalate, the more damaging they become.
Invariably with the slowing economy, there is a greater chance that a business will become involved in one form of dispute or another. Try these strategies for dealing with disputes:
Focus on issues not people. One of the most common mistakes in dispute resolution is to allow the dispute to become a personal attack on the other party. As soon as this happens, discussions invariably break down and, in many cases, the initial issue takes second place to a battle of insults.
Don’t take it personally. Even the most reasonable, fair, easy-going people find themselves the target of complaints. The other party may not understand the ‘rules of engagement’ when it comes to resolving an issue. Keep the gloves off and don’t allow yourself to be drawn into an argument, however inviting it may be.
Listen. Often a dispute can be brought to an end by simply listening to the other party. Once they have the opportunity to explain their position without any interruption, often the problem is no longer an issue. In many cases, the other party may simply just want to be heard and have their opinions validated.
Seek the quickest solution. The longer a dispute runs, the more out of control it can become. Not to mention the additional cost it can cause to a business. On a personal level, individuals tend to view a delay in resolution as trivialising the matter. What may seem an expensive first option is often the least costly and most practical solution.
A business is not an island. Every business relies on others, whether it be employees, suppliers or customers. How you deal with these during a dispute can affect how the other parties see you. Sometimes a tough win can upset other important business relationships
Focus on the benefits. Disputes are unpleasant. Treat them as a chance to get things right and they automatically become a positive influence for your business.
Avoid a legal solution. A legal solution introduces a third party, the court. When that happens you are running a real risk by moving things further away from your control. While it may be a good idea to get legal advice and consult a lawyer, don’t act too soon. A good legal advisor will always discourage a legal solution.
Be open. Arrange for feedback and complaints to be heard from those involved with your business, including staff members, suppliers and customers. Deal with them promptly and avoid ignoring small issues that may build up with time. Business disputes can lead to loss of sleep, money, business and even friends. Before entering into a business relationship with customers, suppliers, partners or employees, discuss areas of potential conflict and clarify all the terms and put them in writing. If a dispute arises, sit down and work things out. It may even be advisable to find a neutral person to help work things out. Remember that a dispute is always better avoided in the first place.