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By Christine Corelli

Get real! Life without conflict is a pipe dream! But when conflict occurs or exists in your dealer business, it must be resolved. If it is not, it can lead to negative and unproductive consequences: anxiety, anger, intimidation, blame, resentment, morale problems, even power plays that intensify problems and that waste your time and drain your energy. Worse, an employee may take out their frustration on others, and this is something no company can afford.

Far too often, however, your environment triggers it. If you have allowed any of these conditions to exist, or worse, you don’t know everything that’s going on in your dealership, and especially in your branches, you have big problems.

- Too much competition and not enough collaboration– especially between branch managers
- Territorialism or an “us vs. them” mentality
- Negativity and bad attitudes
- Personality clashes
- Favoritism
- Micromanaging
- Employees who slack off and get away with it
- Employees who come in late habitually
- Employees who take long smoke breaks and text breaks
- Sexual harassment or inappropriate remarks about someone’s race or ethnicity
- Gender inequality
- Lack of respect for others’ opinions, ideas and feelings

This type of environment breeds conflict. Fortunately, the majority of dealers would never put up with such things and want to create an excellent place for people to come to work every day! But people are people. There will always be a conflict between employees or even teams.

Collaboration is the Key

Collaboration is, by far, the best method of handling conflict. Whether the conflict exists with you or an employee, or when there is simply a personality clash between two people, it’s crucial to resolve the problem.

Collaborate the Right Way!

It’s up to you as the owner or manager to promote teamwork and collaboration. When you become aware of a conflict situation, explain that when people are willing to collaborate to resolve conflict, a sense of trust, partnership and coalition should come into play. People should generate potential solutions. Collaboration should be an open forum for the exchange of feelings, ideas and solutions to problems.

Tip on Conflict Resolution and Collaboration

When striving to resolve conflict, let the person know you have heard them and understand their position. Supply the answer, but in the form of a question. Consider different scenarios where you might use these phrases:           
     
- “What would happen if we could agree to …”

- “It would help me if …”

- “I know it’s tough dealing with customers, but I would like you to be able to maintain your professionalism.”

- “Can you two agree to keep your differences “in tow”?       
               
Ask for cooperation – don’t demand it. 

- “Can I rely on you to ...”
- “I have not shown you any disrespect. May I ask the same of you?”
- “Will you please …”
- “I would appreciate it if you would ...” 
“How about if we agree to …”

 And always ask:

- “Is there anything I should know about?”
- How to handle conflict with a customer

That’s a whole different ballgame, and we will work on addressing it in a future issue. For now…

 

Ten Reasons Conflict can be Healthy

1. Conflict helps people find common ground. 
Although it is easy to get stuck arguing about who did what or why something won’t work, identifying and confronting these issues often focuses people on alternative ways to resolve a problem and find a standard, acceptable solution. 

2. Conflict teaches people about their “conflict resolution style” and what works and what doesn’t.
Understanding your conflict resolution style requires that you take a good hard look at yourself. How do you react to different points of view or differences of opinion? Do you remain cool, calm, collected and professional? Do you demonstrate respect for differences of opinion? Where do you need to improve? Your managers and employees should respect how you handle conflict, and respect should be one of the core values of your company.

3. Conflicts are an opportunity to learn about others.
Conflicts arising from differing personalities can help you determine how to problem solve and manage employees in the future and can help people learn how to get along with others. 

4. Conflict creates an opportunity to be creative and can be a catalyst to help you seek solutions that are outside of your comfort level. 

Constructively addressing conflict encourages you and others to bring new ideas to the table to help solve disputes. 

5. Healthy conflicts often end with a win-win solution. 
When people feel free to state their differing opinions honestly, and others can hear and respect the differences, they often find alternatives that work. Encourage people to be honest. “Be straight with each other.”

6. Conflict is an opportunity to open communication on a difficult subject.
Conflict and confrontation are natural and healthy components of any relationship. There is no right, wrong, good, or bad way to identify or cause a constructive conflict. Often the issues people dispute about are not the issues on which they disagree.

7. Tactful confrontation strengthens relationships. 
Confronting conflict encourages openness and honesty.

8.Managing conflict by dealing with it is more efficient than letting it fester. 
Getting right to the disputed issue at hand resolves it quicker, and emotional time dwelling is shortened. Nip problems in the bud. 

9. Managing conflicts appropriately helps build independence. 
Learning how to appropriately deal with conflict relieves you of the issue and helps you to focus Learning how to deal with conflict appropriately relieves you of the issue and helps you to focus on what is most important: customer loyalty. 

10. Conflicts encourage people to grow.
Conflicts are challenging and can lead to personal and professional growth.

The Bottom Line

We don’t live in a perfect world. There are no perfect people, perfect teams, or perfect companies. Conflict will always occur. It is merely a part of life, and it most definitely comes with the territory in any business. Learn to deal with it (and encourage your team to deal with it) in a professional manner. Strive to create the type of culture where teamwork, collaboration, respect and service excellence permeate the entire company.

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