Tackling Conflict At Your Startup By Finding Neutral Territory Conflicts are to be expected at startups and, as an entrepreneur, you need to know how to tackle them.

By Aby Sam Thomas

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


In an ideal world, the office shouldn't be a setting for any kind of conflict, but let's be real, such situations are to be expected when people work with each other in close proximity, day in and day out. Be it among employees, or among co-founders even, there are plenty of avenues for strife to occur within an organization, and as the entrepreneur running the business, it'd serve you well if you are prepared to handle and manage these kinds of eventualities.

Rest assured that avoiding or ignoring such issues isn't going to be in your company's best interest- unresolved conflict can lead to anything from staff turnover, to, well, bigger problems- Harvard Business School professor Noam Wasserman, when researching for his book The Founder's Dilemma, found that 65% of startups fail as a result of co-founder conflict.

So, if conflicts are to be expected in your business, how do you, as the entrepreneur running the show, go about tackling them? With the disclaimer that I am not at all an expert in this arena, and that I am simply looking back at my own experiences and things that I have seen, heard and read, here's my take on what you need to do to resolve a conflict:

1. Start by listening to both sides

Regardless of how you became aware of a crisis within the workplace, make it a point to talk to (and understand the perspectives of) people on either end of the conflict. It is absolutely imperative that you do not -do not- have a go at one of the parties in the conflict after having heard just the other's point of view. Startups are emotional places, yes, but when managing these kinds of situations, it's important to remember to stay as objective as you can, look out for the facts, and, well, just be wiser about things- though that's easier said than done.

2. You now know the story- interpret it in your company's best interests

I equate this part of my conflict resolution process with the way I react to "inspiring" quotes that I see on Instagram: all of that's great and all, but how does that affect me? From a managerial point of view, this is when you need to consider what you have learned about the conflict, and figure out how it relates to your company- it's not really about choosing one side over the other; your role is to get the issue resolved in a way that is good for your business in the long term.

3. Make a decision (and then stick to it)

Conflict resolution shouldn't take on the form of a never-ending debate- after all, you don't want these situations to fester, as letting things go without finding a solution will almost certainly lead to feelings of resentment within the workplace. A positive company culture is something that's vital for your business' success, and so, you don't want to have a workforce onboard that's low on morale. Make an informed decision with respect to solving the conflict- your focus should essentially be on preventing it from happening again.

When it comes to resolving conflicts, getting it done may take some time- but doing it right will serve you and your company well in the long run. Don't shy away from such situations- it's always better to tackle them head on at the first instance.

Related: Is Your Business Prepared To Handle A Crisis? Start By Acknowledging The Issue

Aby Sam Thomas

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.  

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