Organizations are communities built around stakeholder relationships to promote goodwill, trust, support, and enhance performance. As in any connection, there are good and bad moments. Sometimes the relationship fractures, causing frustration, disappointment, and harm to people and the organization. Business relationships become a tangled web of memories, joy, anger, expectations, trust, distrust, wins, and failures. If the negative feelings are unresolved, they grow into conflicts characterized by resentment or out-of-control anger, affecting organizational productivity and performance.

As with tangled holiday lights, it becomes difficult to tell where the mess begins and ends. In business relationships, the beginning of a conflict differs for every person involved; each has a different interpretation of what caused the conflict. Moreover, tangled holiday lights have available and broken light bulbs. It is crucial to avoid breaking the bulbs while untangling, as too many broken lights make the string unviable. In our business relationship analogy, functional lights indicate individuals’ durability, and broken lights indicate vulnerabilities. A business relationship comprises people with exposures that could create an unresolvable situation if strained due to negativity. This situation could weaken the community.

Untangling these holiday lights provides practical and essential lessons for organizations to manage and resolve conflicts. Effective conflict resolution begins with identifying the conflict’s beginning for each party and accommodating and acknowledging contributing factors. Then, organizations can adopt Kilmann’s conflict mode instrument, focusing on the collaborative conflict management style to create a unified team and safeguard the community imperative in corporate success. Untangling the lights, competing, accommodating, and compromising cannot be avoided, as the holiday requires the lights. Similarly, the collaborative style is the most effective conflict management approach to untangle the mess and create a viable solution for all persons involved. After that, conflict resolution techniques such as mediation, negotiation, arbitration, mutual decision-making, and alternate dispute resolution systems (ADR) are effective.

Amanda Dukovich, MS

Amanda is the Marketing Director at Wilke CPAs & Advisors, LLP