Conflict management: How to avoid conflicts through proper feedback

8 Min.
Conflict management: How to avoid conflicts through proper feedback

Conflict management and feedback help you to avoid conflicts in your professional life. If you take a clear stand, false expectations don't stand a chance. Instead, your business partners, customers and suppliers can rely on you. If conflicts do arise, it is important to resolve them as quickly as possible - in case of doubt, with the help of mediation.

Conflict prevention through feedback: recognising and avoiding conflicts

Feedback is an important starting point for conflict prevention. In order to avoid conflict, you first need to know if something is wrong. This makes feedback an important aspect that will help you in the long run.

Feedback is not only about your needs, but also those of your business partners, customers and suppliers. It is important to avoid conflicts and to question your processes if necessary.

But what makes feedback so valuable? Basically, the most effective way to avoid conflict is prevention. For you, this means mastering the situation before it escalates. This is exactly what feedback helps you to do - without it you cannot recognise grievances at an early stage. Hardly anyone notices conflicts if you defuse them in time. And yet you contribute to a relaxed atmosphere. For this reason alone, it is worthwhile to take feedback from business partners, customers and suppliers to heart and actively seek it out. Do you want to achieve results quickly? Then this is the right way to go.

Need for harmony and lack of courage

People who place great value on harmony find it difficult to formulate clear feedback. They do not want to cause offence with their expectations and shy away from conflicts. However, this does not mean that these business partners, customers or suppliers do not have expectations - they rather try not to show them openly. Always trying to please everyone, being nice and smiling is very exhausting in the long run. Moreover, they tend to agree to solutions too quickly, even if they are not convinced by them.

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Recognising expectations and disappointments

The cause of most conflicts lies in disappointed hopes. Therefore, efficient expectation management is the core of conflict prevention. Regular feedback helps you to perceive what other people expect and to compare it with the current situation. It is important for you and your company that it is not about fulfilling all expectations of you.

When you intercept unspoken expectations, it has nothing to do with a hypersensitive management style. Rather, it is the efficiency that makes such an approach interesting. If you draw the right conclusions from proper feedback, you can catch potential conflicts quickly and effortlessly - afterwards it costs a lot of commitment and time. If you clearly express what you stand for and what expectations you meet, not everyone will like it. Nevertheless, in this way you prevent later conflicts and protect your company.

Taking a clear stand

Do you want to curb false expectations? Then it helps if you take a clear stand. Being clear and understandable about how you react to feedback from your business partners, customers or suppliers requires the courage to be clear. This is a quality that many people neglect in favour of diplomatic generalisations. If you avoid such conflicts, it is possible that the feedback will also be glossed over. After all, your counterparts don't want to disappoint you with their feedback any more than you want to disappoint them.

This diplomacy makes it difficult to express your true views and intentions. You can only initiate an alignment of expectations if both parties are open and honest about what they think. In this way, conflicts can be addressed directly instead of simmering subliminally. As Karlheinz Wolfgang, a lecturer in individual psychology, put it, expectations are one-sided contracts. When you ask for feedback, you dissolve this one-sided contract and find out what is important to your business partners, customers or suppliers.

Problems with business partners

You and your co-founders have bonded over the great project of a joint company. But the day-to-day cooperation is very different from what you expected: you prioritise appointments and agreements differently. And they generally don't do their work as conscientiously, efficiently and reliably as you had imagined. Such problems and the resulting conflicts are very unpleasant, but they must be resolved. 

You have to discuss with your business partners how you define your cooperation and what problems exist. In the worst case, it may turn out that you cannot bring your ideas and expectations together. However, this realisation is also very important: you then know where you stand and have it in your hands in time to change something or go separate ways.

Conflicts with clients

Instead of reacting to possible first impulses, such as counter-argumenting, getting upset or closing yourself off, the first thing to do is to stay calm and pause for a moment. Don't get angry just because the customer is angry, because it's about your business. Even if the customer is not satisfied with the service - regardless of whether this is justified from your point of view or not - it is helpful to remain sovereign and objective. 

First of all, it is about the clients and what they have to say. Take them seriously and avoid justifications. This leads to a verbal exchange of blows, in which the real issue - the satisfaction of the customer and the reputation of your company - takes a back seat. Good client management also involves admitting mistakes. In some circumstances, an apology may be appropriate. Compensation can also reduce the frustration of your clients.

In general, you should never take a complaint personally, even if it is about your company, your heart's project. The focus is on your product or the service you offer, not on you as a person. 

Differences with suppliers

There may well be situations where you are unhappy with your suppliers or service providers. If you expected something different, you should sit down with them and discuss your ideas. 

This way you can build a reliable relationship together. This includes, for example, training the other person to let you know if deadlines cannot be met. Or if deliveries are incomplete, defective or damaged. If you are interested in working with a supplier in the long term, you should regulate this cooperation for both parties from the beginning. 

An essential point can be the quality assurance agreement (QAA). This refers to a contractual agreement between the buyer and the supplier in which it is described in detail what the supplier must do to comply with quality assurance and which specifications he must fulfil. The QAA has the task of optimising the inter-company division of labour, making delivery processes simpler and faster and thus avoiding multiple quality inspections.

The most important basis for such clarifying conversations is preparation. You should be clear beforehand what is important to you and what your exact goal is. Distinguish between observation and evaluation so that you can distinguish between subjective feelings and facts. It helps to put yourself in the other person's position in order to be able to show understanding. Reproaches have no place in these conversations, in which the parties are striving for a common consensus.  

Conflict management: strategies for dealing with conflict and solutions

Even in a business context, people always come together, so conflicts with customers are human. No matter how hard you try - every now and then conflicts simply cannot be avoided. If this is the case, it helps to solve the existing problems quickly and efficiently. Feedback and a cooperating team help to minimise the impact. The most important point is always to re-establish a functioning human relationship. On such a basis, most conflicts can be resolved quickly and efficiently.

Is there a conflict?

As soon as you recognise tensions in your interaction with a person, it is worthwhile to investigate whether it is a conflict. You can either start from the feedback or from yourself. Is the tension coming exclusively from you? If so, it is a problem that is best investigated by yourself. Otherwise, it is a question of finding out in which areas this conflict occurs. Such a conflict always emanates from several parties. In very few cases is the cause of the conflict rooted in the issue. If this were the case, a constructive discussion between the parties involved would help.

In such a situation, targeted conflict management will help you. This is based on Timothy Leary's human model, which was further developed by Robert Anton Wilson. This model states that people resort to certain behaviours in stressful or conflict situations. If you understand the system behind this, you can react to it in a targeted way. 

Disputes often arise from habits with which we solve our conflicts. Basically, you can distinguish between four types:

  • People who keep their frustrations to themselves and give little or no feedback.
  • People who tend to vehemently defend their point of view, even loudly or aggressively if necessary.
  • People who are scientific and need tangible evidence - these people argue logically in the first place.
  • People with high moral and ethical standards who want to convince themselves of the general value.

Agreement? Signal willingness to find a solution!

Regular communication with feedback helps you to intercept conflicts. Regardless of whether you are seeking such feedback or there is an acute problem: Your willingness to find a solution is an important basis for resolving a disagreement. At the same time, it is essential that both parties show interest in a solution. But how can you go about it?

  1. Find out if there is a shared conflict situation. Are both parties aware of the conflict? Only if this is the case can you reach an agreement. As long as a site assumes a harmonious coexistence, there is no reason to work towards a solution.
  2. It is also crucial whether both parties would come to an agreement as soon as all demands or expectations are met. Here it is important that you do not make a concrete offer. It is only a question of finding out whether your counterpart also wants an agreement.
  3. Then you can try to deal with the problem on a factual level. Ideally, you will come to a joint solution. If this is not possible despite your efforts, mediation can help in many cases.

Avoid misunderstandings through feedback

Regular feedback helps you to manage conflict effectively. It helps you to find strategies to solve and manage conflicts. However, some tensions are unavoidable. In this case, you can neither counteract them with concrete ideas for solutions nor with feedback.

Even with a high need for harmony, you cannot avoid an occasional argument. It is always better to deal with a conflict than to suppress it in the long term. This would lead to latent stress in dealing with business partners, suppliers or customers. At the same time, an unspoken conflict affects the interpersonal relationship. Conflict management is therefore not a final solution and does not completely avoid tensions. Rather, it helps you to deal skilfully with different opinions.

Mediation - the modern conflict moderation

Mediation is a way of resolving conflicts out of court. However, it is not exclusively suitable for disputes that would otherwise end up in court. You can use it specifically to resolve problems that the feedback points out to you. The aim of the method is for the persons concerned to find a subjectively balanced solution.

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Mediators form the basis of such a procedure. They are neutral and confidential, which enables them to act as outsiders. What does this mean? Mediators stand outside and do not evaluate. The fact that they have no decision-making power enables the participants to speak openly with each other. For mediation to be successful, it is essential that both parties participate openly and voluntarily.

Before the mediation begins, you define the mandate together. This means that you agree on the goals of the discussion. How much time can you invest in the mediation? Do you want to actively participate in solving existing problems? In this context, you provide information about the feedback and analyse what will be included in the discussion.

Entry

At the beginning of the mediation it is important that you create a constructive atmosphere. In this protected setting, the participants get the opportunity to communicate. What outcome do they hope for? What fears are they carrying around with them? You can achieve a balanced relationship by involving the participants equally.

Also important: Introduce at the beginning what the process will look like. This way, all participants know what to expect. This helps you to avoid disappointment. It is important that it is clear to everyone that no one is judging them. This promotes active and intensive cooperation and increases willingness. Always focus on the goal and avoid time pressure. This way you can maintain a positive climate throughout the conversation.

In individual work, all participants collect their wishes. The feedback forms the basis for these wishes, if applicable. The facilitator then explains which concerns can be resolved through mediation. This raises the question: Why can't all issues be resolved? The answer is simple: mediators do not have the authority to decide. This is the task of the manager. For issues that can be resolved, there are usually different approaches. In mediation, the people decide together which path they want to take and what feedback they want to give.

Clarification

You then enter the feedback from the first step into the communication square (Friedemann Schulz von Thun). Each person goes through the individual levels:

  • What do customers, business partners or suppliers feel when they think of the conflict?
  • Which factual issues are particularly important?
  • How is the relationship with the counterpart perceived?
  • What does the person want from the others?

Active listening, visualising content and maintaining the flow are among the main tasks of this facilitation step. Disparaging remarks and personal attacks are out of place here. These must be translated into acceptable language. After the contentious points have been worked out, only the core points of the conflict remain.

Your questions about conflict management

What questions about conflict management do you have for Jürgen? We look forward to your comment. Are you interested in WordPress , online marketing and more? Then follow RAIDBOXES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via our newsletter.

Jürgen Renz and his trainers support numerous companies throughout Germany in the areas of management and personnel development. In 1989, while studying mathematics, he founded his first IT company, which has developed into one of the leading system houses. Since 2015, his focus has been on sustainable human resources development with Finderlohn Personalentwicklung GmbH & Co. KG, on sustainable human resources development.

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