Communication Judo: How to Move from Conflict to Collaboration

August 15, 2018
Communication Judo: How to Move from Conflict to Collaboration

The Challenge

Conflict within organizations—especially during a period of significant change—happens all too often. However, if handled properly, conflict and change can be positive; leading to better communication, new ideas, clarified roles and responsibilities and, ultimately, improved relationships. On the other hand, when internal squabbles lead to finger-pointing and general distrust between groups, the situation calls for more than just a simple team-building exercise.

Following an extended period of poor service quality, there was an increase in tension between two teams at a financial services company. The company’s leaders knew it was time to seek external help when it became clear that the two teams had clashing priorities getting in the way of a resolution.

Unless quickly resolved, they faced the risk of added service failures that could lead to legal liabilities, loss of customers and revenue, and long-term damage to its reputation.

The Solution

Through workshops—with the firm’s leaders and employees—Farber analyzed the historical service failures to identify root causes as well as other stress points in the company’s processes. The findings pointed at the true cause of the poor service quality: employees did not have a clear understanding of their teams’ roles and responsibilities.

Farber worked with the company’s stakeholders to identify top-priority issues based on meeting client service expectations and deadlines and ease of implementation. With these key priorities highlighted, Farber helped outline short-term tactical solutions to mitigate risk and ensure successful execution. Farber also recommended several longer-term initiatives to address the remaining issues identified.

The tactical solutions were assigned to the two employee teams, with roles and responsibilities for each solution clearly outlined. This helped prevent overlap and potential renewed conflict between the groups.

The Result

The financial services firm put measures in place to prevent future occurrences of 13 of the 18 service level failures that had occurred over the past two years. With roles and responsibilities now clearly defined, the working relationship between the two teams improved significantly, boosting both productivity and workplace morale. Clients also saw a measured improvement in the service quality provided by the Company.

The Conclusion

Running a service business is tough—especially when internal teams aren’t on the same page. Confusion around roles and responsibilities can ultimately lead to poor service quality—which can segue into potential legal problems, customer attrition, and long-term PR damage.

In this case, Farber worked with the company to ensure both short and long-term solutions were introduced to clearly identify priorities, roles, and responsibilities. The goal was to minimize risks and put an end to the service failures—but, ultimately, the company also saw improved internal relationships, improved productivity, and boosted morale.

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Adam W. Silver is the Managing Director of  the Performance Acceleration practice at Farber. The Performance Acceleration practice helps executives and boards overcome operational and strategic challenges to uncover potential and unleash performance. Adam can be reached at 416.496.3734 and