Conflict Management

During a recent family business consultation call, mom was adamant, "Our kids NOT getting along after I die is NOT an option!" I was chuckling on the inside thinking, "Wow, this parent is quite powerful. She believes she can control others' behaviors from the grave!"

Mom told me that she and her kids all hate conflict and get along well. But, the more I listened, the more concerned I became - especially when it came to details for the next generation to learn about her secret asset and farm succession plan.  I believe she has her "Pollyanna" head in the sand and in the long run will be the one who divides her children.

Now, I'm like most of you. I don't like to deal with conflict because it is often accompanied with feelings of anger.  Yet, neither conflict nor anger is bad or good - it's what you do with that emotion in those situations that helps or hurts. It's also true there are many moments and situations that just need to "roll off the back."  But, if a persistent irritant affects behaviors and relationships, it's time to take a look at how we deal with anger.

Here are the three most common unproductive and hurtful uses of anger:

1.  We ignore the issue and the anger that builds. I often hear family members exclaim, "Oh, this is no big deal." Or, "Let's work hard and maybe it will go away."   My favorite?  "Maybe I'll be dead before we have to deal with it."  Yet, it's obvious that without acknowledgement and action, the "mosquito bite" issues often turn into big blow ups, resentment or revenge.

2.  We blame someone else. We proclaim, "It's your fault that I'm angry!" and proceed to tell you exactly all you did that was wrong. The problem is that while we're in the blaming mode, we often make matters worse. We raise our voices and make those exaggerated statements -   "You never"…"You always"…"Who anointed you to be the king?"  Placing blame keeps you "stuck."  As long as you blame someone else for your emotions and behaviors, you'll never look at your part in the problem…or the solution.

3. We let anger become sniper revenge. Instead of focusing energy on a resolution, we focus on getting even, all the while making "the innocent" look like a saint. It's the philosophy of "in order for me to win, you must lose." What we forget is that revenge results in two losers.

There is a better way to deal with anger and conflict. In my workshops on family business, participants receive a template for "." In simplified terms, it says:

1. If you have a problem with someone, you must go directly to him/her. And you can't go with a problem unless you have a proposed solution.

2. If the two of you can't resolve it, then you are both to go to the manager/leader.

3. If not resolved, then you go to the owners.

4. If not resolved, then you bring in an advisor.

5. If not resolved, then you agree to hire a neutral party who hears all parties and makes a decision with binding arbitration.

One of the many benefits to conflict management is that you just might get a better solution than anger. We've all heard, "Two heads are better than one." And I've found when two heads are focused on a solution instead of anger the outcome is better for your health, relationships and the business.

Jolene Brown is a farmer, professional speaker, author and champion for the family owned business. She's from West Branch, Iowa, USA, and travels worldwide sharing leading-edge best practices that have the power to increase productivity, profitability and peace of mind. Her passion combined with her fun-filled spirit and valuable information brings humor, hope and helpful ideas to the people of agriculture. Jolene's books, "Holy Crap! I Married a Farmer!" Joy-filled Lessons Connecting Our Sisters in Agricultureand Sometimes You Need More Than a 2x4! How-to-tips to successfully grow a family business are available online at  For more information and to check out her speaking availability, contact her at

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Copyright © 2018 Jolene Brown, LLC. All Rights Reserved

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