Picture, if you will, a business. The clients are well-satisfied: they are receiving a good product, good service, and good quality. Since all that is good, the business is healthy, correct? Not necessarily. Out of sight of the clients, unresolved relationship issues are working slow destruction day after day.
Let’s go “under the hood” of this imagined business. Constant nitpicking by the head of marketing is grating on the head of sales. Irritation at a newly-introduced company policy is eating away at the CIO, so she avoids interacting with the leadership team members who championed the policy. The CFO is nursing a grudge from four months ago when he was blamed for a problem beyond anyone’s ability to predict or control. The VP of manufacturing believes she is being blackballed by the head of quality and sees an implied insult behind every statement.
Now do you think the business is healthy?
Of course not; satisfied clients notwithstanding. Besides, it is just a matter of time before clients – and the business overall – are affected. An impact is inevitable since unresolved relationship issues inexorably breed:
- Dysfunction that inhibits dialogue and decision-making.
- Inefficiency as people work around one another instead of with one another.
- Tension that destroys the innovative environment and mindset.
- Distrust as people read malevolent intent into the most innocent of comments.
- Demotivation that leads to lower productivity and quality.
- Burnout as energy is expended on negative emotion rather than invested in the business.
The above list is representative, not exhaustive, of the slow rot that occurs when relationship issues are not addressed. That brings us to the following principle: in business relationships, there is no problem too small that it should not be dealt with and no problem too big that it cannot be dealt with.
There is no problem too small that it should not be dealt with. We cannot emphasize this enough: problems don’t have to be “big” in and of themselves to end up creating major issues. Something as simple as anger over a casual comment can fester until it explodes in the board room. The irony? Such a comment, more often than not, has been misinterpreted. If the offended person had just asked for clarification at the time, it could have saved weeks or even months of internal stewing. Even if the anger is justified, the fact remains: small problems are easier to deal with when they are still small. So don’t wait. If you’ve got an issue – or if your team has an issue – air it and address it and resolve it. Now.
There is no problem too big that it cannot be dealt with. If you have a major conflict at hand or if you have waited on a small problem and it has become a big problem, then take action. Nothing is so big that it cannot be resolved if it is addressed in the right way. We recommend using the VOMP model for conflict resolution. Accept upfront that it will take courage to address “the elephant in the room.” But you can address that elephant and get it out of the room. Think about how much easier it will be to breathe and work without the elephant taking up all that mental and emotional space!
Whether big or small, tackle any unresolved relationships issues that are interfering with the health and well-being of your business. You may have been hiding behind excuses such as “This isn’t impacting our clients” or “This is just between me and him/her” or “I’m keeping my anger to myself.” Don’t kid yourself: people know. The people around you already know. Your clients will know soon enough, if they don’t know already. Relationship problems can never be kept “under wraps” for the long term. They will continue growing and undermining your business. But don’t let that discourage you. Remember: in business relationships, there is no problem too small that it should not be dealt with and no problem too big that it cannot be dealt with. You just have to do it.