When you’re a franchisee, you operate your own business, with the franchisor above you and your employees below you. To keep things running smoothly, you’ll need to minimise disagreements with both groups. Here are our top tips for managing conflict as a franchisee.
Before we get started, it’s useful to know how conflict can break out in the first place. Our article, 5 Common Sources Of Franchise Conflict, highlights the problems most likely to affect your business. But this article is all about how you can nip them in the bud before they become an issue.
When it comes to conflict management and resolution, you’ll take different steps depending on the person you’re working with. So, we’ve split this article into two parts:
- Resolving conflict with your franchisor
- Resolving conflict with employees
Let’s start with franchisors.
Resolving conflict with your franchisor
1. Look at the franchise agreement
If you don’t know where to start, take a look at your franchise agreement document. If it doesn’t provide more insight into the issue you’re facing, try to find out whether there’s an established complaints process. It’s likely your franchisor has already put measures in place to make sure problems are resolved quickly and efficiently.
2. Organise a face-to-face meeting
The first step in the conflict resolution process is to talk to your franchisor in person. This will give you both the opportunity to air your grievances and propose solutions.
While conversations over the phone can be useful, it’s far better to meet in person if you want to resolve long-standing issues. Body language and non-verbal communication play a large part in expressing yourself, so face-to-face meetings can move the conflict management process along much quicker.
What’s more, people are more empathetic when they’re talking with someone sitting directly in front of them. This should also help you resolve the situation faster and help you develop a closer working relationship in the future.
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3. Put the complaint in writing
If the face-to-face meeting doesn’t end with a satisfactory result, it’s time to put your complaint in writing. This is an efficient way of letting the franchisor know you're formally escalating the issue. Again, double-check the franchise agreement. If you take legal actions in the future, you'll need evidence you followed the formal complaints procedure.
In your letter, make sure you describe your complaints clearly and provide proof of the measures you've taken in an attempt to resolve the issue. When you’ve finished it and sent it off, keep a copy of all correspondence for future reference.
4. Seek legal help
Take legal advice if the face-to-face meeting and official written complaint fail to resolve the issue. Make sure you use a lawyer with experience of handling franchise cases. Of course, this should be a last resort, and only undertaken once you’ve tried at length to solve the problem. However, if you feel you’ve exhausted all other avenues and have no other choice, preparing legal action is the logical next step.
Resolving conflict with employees
1. Know when to get involved
Most successful franchises already have a procedure in place for conflicts between the employee and franchisee. But when disagreements occur between employees, you’ll need to judge when to get involved. Although there’s no specific obligation in your franchise contract to mediate when employees don’t get along, it’s in your interest to tackle the issue before it escalates.
Knowing when to intervene is sometimes difficult to gauge but, as a rule, you should step in when the problem starts to affect your employees’ work or disrupts other workers. Even if the conflict is unrelated to work or the structure of the franchise system, you may still need to intervene. Personality clashes and other personal issues can have a significant impact on the business if they get out of hand and should not be ignored.
2. Listen to your employees
Here’s one of the most valuable tips for managing conflict: you’ll be able to make an informed decision about the action you’ll take after you’ve really listened to your employees. With an in-depth understanding of the problem, you’ll be in a better position to come to an objective verdict. And, by giving everyone involved the chance to speak, all your employees will feel they’re being heard, rather than ignored.
You may be concerned you’ll just add fuel to the fire if you allow your employees to speak their minds. But giving them the chance to get their concerns off their chests can actually serve to defuse the situation.
3. Put the conflict into perspective
If tension has been brewing for quite a while, a relatively small issue can get blown out of proportion. Sometimes, an argument can be resolved quite quickly by simply helping employees see the bigger picture. Whether you try to offer reassurance or reinforce the company’s core objectives, you may be able to help them work towards an agreement.
Of course, not all conflicts can be dealt with so easily, but being the voice of reason and offering a reality check may be an excellent first step to solving the problem.
4. Get to the root of the problem
When you’ve listened to both sides of the argument, ask yourself what your employees’ real motivations are. Their words may hint at a more complicated underlying issue.
Disputes are bound to happen, but even the most successful franchises can't thrive if there’s a deep-rooted conflict going on behind the scenes. To help get to the nub of the issue, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there anything causing tension between me and my staff?
- Is there a fundamental flaw in the culture I have created?
- Do I need to review my vision and values?
Of course, asking yourself these questions can be tough, but you need to do it if you want to ensure the success and longevity of your franchise. By making simple, subtle changes, you can minimise the chances of further incidents breaking out.
5. Encourage collaboration
During the recruitment process, you should have been working to create a team with one unifying attribute: commitment to your business. When problems arise, you might choose to remind them of this shared vision.
If the underlying issue is business-related, turn negative feelings into positive brainstorming sessions. Ask all employees to get involved and give them the chance to shape the business’s future. In doing so, your employees should feel they’re working towards a common goal and relish the chance to put their ideas forward.
By dealing with conflict in an honest and collaborative way, you can turn disputes into opportunities. An open forum for your staff members can:
- Improve employees’ understanding of the business and its goals
- Improve relationships within the team
- Restore trust in the business
- Encourage honesty among staff members
All these things are important for maintaining a healthy business. Creating a culture of collaboration between you and your employees can encourage them to take responsibility and have pride in their work.
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6. Make sure employees know they’re valued
Tension between colleagues can lead to feelings of insecurity, as employees wonder about the role they play in the franchise – or will play in the future. So, you need to exercise your leadership skills. As the franchisee, you're the glue holding the business together, so it’s your job to appeal to everyone and stabilise the situation.
One way of doing this is by reminding your staff members just how much you value their contribution to your business. When workers know they’re appreciated, they will feel more able to speak freely with you and raise any issues or concerns they have. This, in turn, gives you the chance to stamp out issues when they first crop up, rather than being forced to deal with the aftermath later on.
In fact, you can use any conflict as an opportunity to boost employee morale. With a team of happy employees, you’re likely to benefit from:
- Higher productivity
- Better employee communication
- Lower staff turnover
- Fewer franchise conflicts
More helpful resources
Running a franchise unit can be difficult at times – that’s why we’ve created a bank of useful resources to help you build a profitable, productive business and minimise stress. Take a look at our articles for franchisees to boost your knowledge.
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©