In the ever-popular TV comedy, The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper is a mastermind at creating agreements. His Relationship Agreement and Roommate Agreement contain many clauses and cohabitation riders. As far-fetched as Sheldon’s agreements appear, they validate their importance when things go off course.
Conflict resolution skills are just as important in a family business as they are for any workplace environment. When people work together in close proximity, their personalities and temperaments are bound to clash over both general and specific issues.
The notion of creating a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to resolve conflicts within a family business may sound odd but think for a second of the benefits. A Conflict Resolution SOP can provide clarity when confusion and chaos break out as a result of disagreement.
This excerpt from the book, Farming’s In-Law Factor, says, “Conflict can be a good thing. It all depends on the situation and how we deal with it.”
Dr. Megan McKenzie goes on to clarify,
“Conflict is as much a part of life as rain. Though not always visible or discussed, it is a normal aspect of our lives as human and is present in all families.”
Learning how to deal with conflicts should be on our how-to-do list. Conflict will undoubtedly occur in both our personal and business affairs.
The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
When the combine or tractor breaks down, an operating manual shows us how to fix the problem. When communication breaks down over an important issue, the SOP can provide a similar fix.
Consider the following when creating your family business’ Conflict Resolution Standard Operating Policy:
1. The best way to devise a “Conflict Resolution Policy” is to include every member of the family business into its creation. Begin with an attitude and vision that all family members will understand and accept this document as an important guide for settling conflicts.
2. Record the events as they occurred to determine the conflict issues that triggered either the positive or negative results. You are building a framework for action steps to deal effectively with future conflicts.
3. The wording in your document should include strong positive language that addresses appropriate and acceptable behavior. The notion of being respectful at all times and attacking the problem not the person may need to be included.
4. The time limit for resolving issues should be pre-determined. Some issues may need to wait to allow for tempers to cool down; other issues may require an immediate response.
5. The guidelines should specify acceptable practices such as: deal directly with the person involved in the issue; vow to keep the issue private among concerned individuals rather than publicize the problem; and be vigilant to uncover the “real” issue.
6. The protocol for involving an outside mediator should be detailed with respect to the circumstances and timelines.
It’s easy to get stuck in the routine of always doing things a certain way. Unknowingly, this certain way can evolve into “the only way”.
I was put in this situation with my father-in-law. He was determined that my husband’s way was not the way he would do things. In no uncertain terms he was out to prove a point. Our relationship was put through a stress-test as we battled through how the cattle would be fed. I will always remember the lesson about “The Way”.
Small petty disagreements can erupt over the way things should be or could be handled, fixed, repaired, built, marketed, delegated, managed, improved, planted, harvested, or sprayed. All these discussions and decisions need to be worked through in a respectful way. That’s the only way.
Conflict Resolution Skills
If you are interesting in learning more about conflict resolution skills, I recommend checking Achieve Training Centre’s website. Click here to see their list of manuals created and intended for personal use.
The Conflict Resolution Skills manual provides pointers for being “Tenants of a Respectful Workplace”, a list every family business may wish to adopt.
Tenants of a Respectful Workplace
- Be respectful of each other.
- Be positive in interactions with others.
- Be thoughtful about how you communicate and the words you use.
- Become aware of how your actions and words are being perceived.
- Remember that what offends one person may not offend another.