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How to Handle Personal Conflicts Professionally

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This story appears in the May 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I bought out my business partner and moved from a behind-the-scenes role to running the company. His parting gift was to tell some employees and suppliers that I’m not trustworthy. I feel betrayed and defensive, and don’t know who heard what. How can I set things right? 

It doesn’t matter who heard -- assume everyone did, and now your team will be watching to see if what you say (or what they heard) matches up with what you do. Time for the high road: no revenge badmouthing. Your opportunity here isn’t to prove you are trustworthy; it is to consistently show up and be trustworthy. 

Remember, people want you to succeed. They’d prefer a good boss over a bad one. So create a community that they’re excited to be a part of. Honor relationships and commitments. Build a climate that encourages questions, ideas and differing viewpoints, and allows you to identify red flags, problems and, most important, solutions. If you get stuck, ask yourself: Why should they want to follow me? Your team is used to your predecessor’s style, so have patience, talk straight, balance praise with constructive feedback and move them forward with you.

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