Entreleadership: Handling unresolved conflict

Dave Ramsey | Special to BIZ. Magazine

Most leaders don’t realize that unresolved conflicts are destroying their businesses. Some don’t even know about the conflicts that exist. That’s a result of poor communication. There are other leaders who avoid confrontation. That’s called denial. Either way, your team and your company lose.

Communication is the key to fighting this enemy of team unity. For my team, the basis of that communication comes through weekly reports. Each week, every team member emails a report to his or her leader. All the leaders read their team members’ weekly reports, and pass along any issues or concerns to me. That way, leadership from all levels is involved with the day-to-day activities of the company.

In addition, in the weekly report team members report their progress on their assigned tasks, and relate their high and low points of the week. This is where dissatisfaction and disagreements tend to be revealed, directly or indirectly. When a leader believes that one team member may be upset with another at work, or has a problem with an assignment or a process, the leader gets the involved parties together and straightens things out.

My advice for handling conflict? Deal with it like you would deal with a splinter—pull it out right away, even if it hurts. Don’t leave it until it’s infected and causing even greater pain. Immediate confrontation and discussion can address the issues at hand, wash out the wound quickly, and allow everyone to go forward in a spirit of unity.

Leaders lead best when they pull out that splinter. Sometimes it’s messy, and sometimes it doesn’t work out perfectly. The alternative, however, is to let the problem fester and walk around pretending nothing’s wrong. That’s a bad plan for the parties involved, the leaders, and the company. Still, it’s what many so-called leaders do. Then, they wonder why there seems to be so much conflict and so little unity.

Avoiding conflict is what normal companies do. My advice is to be weird! Normal companies have employees, and I’ve never wanted that. From the very beginning, I wanted hard-working, talented, loyal team members, who were all focused on the same goal. That’s not always an easy thing to achieve, and it can take time. But wouldn’t you rather put in the work it takes to avoid having a company full of ordinary employees who are burdened with unresolved conflict?

Leadership and small business expert Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored numerous best-selling books, including EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by 16 million listeners each week on more than 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms.