Managing Business Conflict with Stronger Business Acumen skills



Traveling around the world to different clients provides a lot of time to study, read, listen and learn about from other thought leaders in the areas of Business Acumen, Business Leadership, and Strategic Business Selling.  As an avid reader and follower of the Harvard Business Review, I recently had the chance to listen to a new and fascinating podcast created by Amy Gallo called “4 Types of Conflict and How to Manage Them.”  Her perspectives are interesting and applicable all by themselves, but as I was listening, I started to think about them in the context of the work we do at Advantexe in the areas of developing business acumen and business leadership skills.

Amy Gallo presents the following types of conflict:

  • Relationship Conflicts – Personal feelings and emotions related to a relationship
  • Task Conflicts – Disagreements over what is to be done
  • Process Conflicts – Disagreements over how it should be done
  • Status Conflicts – Disagreements over who is in charge

All four of these types of conflicts are common occurrences in the everyday world of business.  I believe that advanced and stronger Business Acumen and Business Leadership skills are important to have in order to be able to diagnose the causes and cures for the types of conflicts Amy Gallo presents.  In a solid and foundational Business Acumen / Business Leadership learning journey, one of the most practical and important lessons that participants bring back to their jobs is how to understand and execute the strategy of their business.

My hypothesis is that the lack of Business Acumen and Business Leadership skills fosters the conflicts.

  • Relationship conflicts happen when people are frustrated and they don’t know what to do or why their work matters.
  • Task conflicts occur when business people aren’t aligned and disagree on what is important and what are the priorities of strategy execution.
  • Process conflicts occur because the misalignment of work and tasks naturally lead to disagreements on how to accomplish anything.
  • Status conflicts occur when there is a misalignment of priorities and lack of understanding of the strategy, of the leadership of execution, and of a clear understanding of who is making the best decisions for the business.

Amy Gallo continues the discussion by presenting four ways of handling these four types of conflicts:

  1. Do nothing – the conflicts will just work themselves out
  2. Address them indirectly – Passive communications, talk about peripheral issues but not specific issues
  3. Address directly – Establish mutual goals and resolutions, ask the other person to think from your perspective, find third parties that you both trust to mediate
  4. Exit the relationship – Leave the job, leave the project, leave the boss, etc.

Based on some of our work, I would add three additional options to this list of methods to manage conflicts:

Use the value proposition to the customer to have a conversation on mutual interests

If the conflicts in business are caused by a lack of alignment, then leverage a Business Acumen skill to solve the conflict.  The value proposition to the customer should be the common ground for all functions and people to work together.  For example, if your value proposition to the customer is product leadership and launching new, innovative products in the market, both parties in conflict should discuss who their actions lead to the execution of the value proposition and look for ways to work together.

Use financial goals and metrics to have a conversation about alignment

The income statement and balance sheet never lie and they never fight with each other; they are facts.  Understanding and using financial goals and metrics can be used to facilitate positive conversations about alignment which could reduce or eliminate any or all of these four types of conflicts.

Discuss how continued conflicts will damage or destroy the brand

Customers know when organizations are in constant conflict because the brand itself gets weaker and suffers. One of the worst conflicts an organization can have is when two critical functions like Sales and Marketing aren’t aligned.  In some organizations Sales professionals look down on Marketing people because there is a perception they “can’t sell” and give them unqualified leads while Marketing people look down on Sales professionals because they can’t close their leads. .  When these conflicts occur, the brand suffers. Understanding how a weak brand impacts everyone is strong cause to have the right conversations to strengthen alignment.

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Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.