The Corporate Rebels Handbook Series: Conflict Resolution

Pim de Morree
Written by Pim de Morree April 22, 2023

This post is part of an ongoing series that gives you an insider’s look at the Corporate Rebels company handbook. If you’re new to this series, we suggest reading the quick intro post that explains why we’re doing this—and what to expect. In today’s post, something that's (not) everyone's favorite: Conflict Resolution.

Conflicts and disagreements can be powerful because they are often excellent opportunities for all of us to improve as individuals and as a team. It would truly be a waste to avoid them… but even worse to ignore them.
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Two objective truths

Conflicts are bound to happen in any workplace. They’re simply unavoidable. So, we can acknowledge the fact that:

  1. conflicts will happen, and,
  2. they can be a good thing.

Conflicts and disagreements can be powerful because they are often excellent opportunities for all of us to improve as individuals and as a team. It would truly be a waste to avoid them… but even worse to ignore them.

Want to make the problem worse? Ignore it.

Ignoring a conflict will mostly not lead to a good outcome. Not only does glossing over it increase the chances of a major blow-up in the future, it also deprives you and the other person of an opportunity to resolve the issue constructively and create good out of the situation that may not have come otherwise.

Think about it: many conflicts result from two people being passionate about their work but disagreeing on the details. When you work those issues out with a proper resolution, there’s almost always a net positive.

In a self-managing company such as ours, you don't have the luxury of asking your boss if they can solve your conflicts for you. Instead, it's up to the team members to fix it themselves. Like adults.

That’s why we have an incredibly simple conflict resolution process that helps solve these disagreements and takes advantage of the opportunities that can come from them.

The process in action

If you ever have a disagreement with someone at work (and you likely will at some point), here's the process to solve it:

  1. Have a direct conversation: Anyone who notices performance or integrity issues with another colleague is required to directly discuss the issue with that colleague. No gossiping. You have to go to them.

  2. Third-party mediator: If two colleagues can't resolve the issue, they can choose to bring in a mediator. The mediator can be anyone who’s trusted by both colleagues. But here’s the catch: the mediator will not solve the issue for you. They only provide advice; it’s up to both of you to solve it.

  3. Panel of colleagues: If any difference of opinion is still not resolved, then it becomes necessary to convene a panel of colleagues to hear both sides and remain engaged in the conversation until a resolution is reached. Again, the panel provides advice but doesn't solve it for you.

  4. Designated arbitrator: If the discussion becomes deadlocked, a designated arbitrator participates in the debate and renders a final decision. After all, at some point, all disputes must come to an end. This, to us, is the fairest way to do so.

Nothing (and no one) is perfect

Having a proper conflict resolution process in place is never a guarantee that everything will simply go well, even in the aftermath of the resolution. Conflicts are conflicts, and people are not robots—we can’t just turn emotions on and off, as great as that would sometimes be.

However, having a fair process in place does provide peace of mind knowing that there will eventually be a resolution instead of just letting a problem fester until it’s out of control. And, as we’ve pointed out, a resolved conflict often creates a lot of good moving forward!

Plus, we all need to be challenged sometimes. None of us are perfect; ideally, we should all be open to getting called out for the dumb shit we can sometimes do or come up with. It’s only fair.

We do want to mention that while conflicts are inevitable, many of them can be prevented or minimized by ensuring a high level of radical transparency and candor within the organization.

And that’s pretty good timing because that’s precisely what we’ll cover in the next post: Radical Transparency.

Written by Pim de Morree
Pim de Morree
As co-founder of Corporate Rebels I focus on: researching, writing, speaking, and building our company.
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