How Do You Deal with a Toxic Business Partner?

Address concerns directly to the bad business partner; communicate openly and clearly. Consider mediation or seek legal advice from a business dispute attorney. Document disagreements, consider amicable separation if necessary.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Working with a Toxic Business Partner

Just like any close relationship, conflicts are bound to arise within a business relationship. However, when an individual is working closely with another person or group of people, it can be easy to let emotions take over and lose focus on the bigger picture. This is especially true when the risks are great and there is a lot of money on the line. This is why learning how to manage conflicts with a business partner is so important.

A conflict within a partnership does not have to cause chaos for a business. There are steps that a business owner can take to manage disputes so that every party feels heard. It is possible to find a solution that restores harmony to the partnership, keeping the business safe from discord.

The following are four strategies that can be used to manage conflicts with a business partner.

  1. Plan Ahead to Prevent Fights Before They Start

If a business owner is aware of certain topics that cause disagreements, he or she should be sure to prevent them before they come up. For instance, one of the most common disputes between partners concerns one feeling they are doing more work than the others. If a business is going through an expansion phase, the holiday season, or any especially busy time, then it is important for an owner to establish specific duties ahead of time. This way there will be no disagreements over the division of responsibilities.

  1. Do Not Rush to Judgment

Decisions can feel overwhelming and personal for many owners and operators of small businesses. When a partner disagrees about an issue, it can be easy to take it personally and become defensive or angry. However, it is important to be patient, calm down, and consider the partner’s position on the issue. By doing so, a business owner can ensure that the argument gets resolved quickly and without toxicity. An owner should focus on the bigger picture, including why he or she joined with their partner in the first place. They should recall their shared vision and the skills and expertise both brought to the partnership. If an owner values his or her partner as a person, then they owe it to them to value their opinion as well, regardless of whether they agree or not.

  1. Host an Active Listening Session

An active listening session is a common method of conflict resolution where each partner agrees to sit down and listen to each other’s views without reacting or speaking. This session will last for a set period of time, usually between 3 to 5 minutes. This tactic is extremely effective at calming people down and allowing them insight into the other person’s position. It is important to note that in a business partnership, the issue of who wins the specific argument is not what matters. Rather, it matters how each partner feels after the conflict has been resolved. If one partner feels left out or angry, the resolution could end up harming the partnership, and by extension, the business. Therefore, it is important to practice active listening exercises to soothe tensions and make every partner feel heard and acknowledged.

  1. Do Not Be Afraid to Ask for Outside Assistance

On occasion, a partnership requires a third party to help resolve a dispute. This is why the field of mediation exists. Mediators have the expertise to manage all manner of disputes. Hiring a mediator can help lead to a less messy dispute, a faster resolution, and a result that is favorable to both parties. If the result is a compromise between partners, then the mediator can ensure that both sides are giving up an equal amount and that no one leaves feeling a sense of injustice.

If a business owner does not like the sound of a professional mediator, he or she should think about asking a friend or colleague to mediate the dispute. This person, however, should be a neutral player and trained in managing arguments. If not, the mediator might cause even more trouble.

In a business partnership, conflicts are guaranteed to arise now and again. However, partners should not lose sight of the bigger picture. They should aim to resolve the dispute as calmly and quickly as possible so that they can continue working together to grow their business.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

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