Finance News & Insights

Finance’s guide to managing conflict – no matter how others react

You’ve heard the expression, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” And that philosophy rings true in any Finance department.

You’ve seen these situations firsthand: A vendor refuses to cooperate with A/R’s terms. A Payroll staffer misses a deadline and quickly becomes anxious. An IT employee isn’t crazy about your department’s new automation idea.

In each situation, it’s not about how others behave, but how your finance staffers react. When they react well, problems get solved and the wheels keep turning. But if they react poorly? Long term, you could be looking at financial loss, bad communication, severed relations, even increased turnover.

That makes it imperative for you to ensure every member of your finance team knows how to react to customers – internal and external – the right way.

5 common reactions

When problems arise at work, people will typically react one of five ways, says office management expert Cal Butera. He’s outlined all five reactions and how your finance staffers can appropriately respond to each one:

1. Silence. When someone’s quiet, he may just be really focused on what the other person is saying. Don’t think he’s necessarily being dismissive, Butera says. In some instances, that person may also be afraid to speak up. Your staffers’ best response: Ask questions to loosen him up. Keep a light tone so he sees you’re trying to understand, not interrogate, him. Then reassure him you want to find a solution together– and to do that, he’ll need to contribute.

2. Tears. No doubt, there’s a lot of pressure in Finance. Emotions can run high, especially around year-end or times when there’s a lot at stake. Your staffers’ best response: Butera advises others to be sympathetic, but don’t join the pity party. Let the person get composed, then revisit the situation.

3. Laughter. A case of the chuckles doesn’t necessarily mean she thinks the problem is a joke. People often laugh as a defense mechanism – and she’s likely concerned or nervous. Your staffers’ best response: Don’t laugh along, Butera says. Stay serious and speak firmly. She’ll stop once she sees a more serious tone has been set.

4. Anger. “I know I’m right!” This person is ready to defend himself and tell you just how ridiculous this situation is. Your staffers’ best response: With angry people, it’s important to avoid being vague. Keep calm and stick to facts. He’ll likely cool down once you explain all the details.

5. Apologies. She puts her gaze down, looks distraught and keeps saying, “I’m sorry.” Your staffers’ best response: Don’t worry too much about whether or not she’s sincere, Butera says. As long as she’s agreeable and ready to find a solution, keep the focus on that.


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