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Chris Reich, Business Mediator
6 Steps to Deal With a High Conflict (Bully) Business Partner
My Business Partner seems to always be looking for a fight. He takes money from the business to pay his personal bills. If I mention it, he’ll blow up and accuse me of being petty. I’m tired of dealing with him but I feel stuck. What can I do?
The High Conflict Business Partner AKA the Bully
This is the most difficult type of person to deal with. They launch into a tirade when you, the ‘rational’ partner, try to reason with them. Is he spending too much money? Not doing very good work? Taking money for himself? And when you bring any of these up, he goes off on you! Yelling is his favorite weapon and are getting sick of dealing with him but have no idea what to do.
While it’s best to get professional intervention to protect your rights, there are some things you can do to try and improve your situation. In this post, I’ll provide some tips that just might help you deal with your Bully Business Partner.
Tip 1: Identify and Get Clear on the Problem
Determine the exact nature of the conflict and understand the concerns of your partner. This will help you to address the underlying issues and find a solution.
Tip 2: Communicate Clearly and Factually
Have an open and honest conversation with your partner. Clearly state your concerns, listen actively to their perspective, and work together to find a solution that works for both of you. Stick to the facts and don’t let your business partner drag you from topic to topic. Stay on point and do not make accusations.
Tip 3: Set Boundaries
Establish clear and firm boundaries for what you are willing to tolerate and communicate them clearly and consistently. Again, stick to the subject. If your partner attacks you personally, say, “I am not willing to subject myself to personal attacks. Please stick to the issue at hand.”
Tip 4: Focus on Facts
High conflict individuals tend to be emotional and may distort the facts. Try to focus on objective information and avoid engaging in emotional arguments. If your partner is constantly taking money from the business and want it to stop you can say, “I will no longer accept or tolerate you taking money from the business without talking with me. In the future, if either of us takes money, the other is entitled to take an equal amount. As we cannot afford to take money beyond our salaries, the practice of writing ourselves ‘extra’ checks needs to stop.” Just say it.
Stick to the facts and do not say “you are always taking money from the business” or “you never treat me as an equal”. Stay away from words like always and never. Those words always trigger negative responses.
If your business partner is always trying to pick a fight, you might be dealing with a High Conflict Person. Yes, that’s a thing. I deal with them often in mediation.
—Chris Reich, Business Partnership Mediator
Tip 5 Get Outside Help
If the conflict is becoming unmanageable, consider seeking outside help from a mediator or business consultant. They can provide an impartial perspective and help you to find a solution that works for both parties. I deal with conflict every day. It’s my job to help lower your stress. Find someone you can trust to work with you and your partner.
I don’t recommend having a friend or relative jump in the middle. Get someone experienced in dealing with conflict. And if there is any threat of violence, I see that often, make it clear that you have a zero-tolerance policy for threats of violence.
Tip 6 Document Everything
Keep a record of all communication and interactions with your partner. This can be useful in case the conflict escalates or legal action becomes necessary. Unfortunately, not all cases can be easily resolved because some people refuse to change. If you land in court, you’ll have already tried mediation and won’t be ordered back to mediation.
Generally, the High Conflict Partner, will be more cooperative if you have your own ducks in a row by documenting specific incidents. Also, don’t just criticize or find fault, when you must deal with your partner, bring solutions. Document your efforts to make things better and you’ll prevail in the end.
“Don’t just criticize or find fault, when you must deal with your partner, bring solutions.”
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