Conflict & Crisis Management and Dismissals

Conflict Management

In self-managing organizations where a problem can’t be shoved to the manager’s desk, disagreements between two colleagues are resolved using a conflict resolution process. Every new member of the bar team should be trained in conflict resolution, since it is fundamental in order to have collaboration without hierarchy. The Morning Star Company (California-based agribusiness) has two basic principles, two basic social values, that inspire every management practice and are in the heart of their conflict resolution practices:

  1. To never use force against other people
  2. To always honor their commitments

The process is very much like the performance evaluation process (advice process), however, conflict resolution can start privately between the two colleagues as well. In a nutshell, the initiator makes a clear request (not a judgement, not a demand) to the other person and then the receiver responds clearly with a yes, no or counter proposal to the initiators request in order to find a solution. Everyone should respect the confidentiality before and after the process to avoid building support groups for one’s view. I admit, it feels a bit silly to write down these things, but for some reason these small but vital communication tools are often neglected in the work place.

This process supports the idea of being open with receiving and giving feedback. While it’s not always easy to hold each other accountable to their commitments and actions, it’s nevertheless fundamental for the work environment. The clearly set process with rules helps confronting a team member, when you know there is a platform and procedure to do it.

Conflict avoidance can easily be the hardest and the biggest issue in a restaurant environment. Making the first move to call someone out or confront someone can be hard. Therefore, it’s good to have these practices in place and create your own framework on how to deal with these matters. As mentioned in the previous post, one way to train the staff interpersonal skills is to go through the Nonviolent Communication book written by Marshall Rosenberg, for encouragement.

Here is a simple 3 step process that is used in Sounds True (a multimedia publishing company) in relation to conflict resolution:

  1. Here is how I feel
  2. Here is what I need
  3. What do you need?

Crisis management

Decision making in times of crisis, laying off people or selling parts of the business, can be hard when self-management practices are in place. After investing in the workforce, the team, during the years of operating, it seems counterproductive to fire someone (even the temporary workers) to fix the problem. For example, FAVI’s leader had an open discussion at the factory explaining the need to cut costs, and within an hour, the decision to cut down permanent workers salary by 25% (3 weeks on, 1 week off) to keep the temp workers onboard, came straight from the workers themselves. A unique case perhaps, but it describes the moral commitment the organization stands for and the trust it wants to promote. Trust yourself as a leader, trust the employees and trust the process.

Basically, as a leader, if you don’t follow the process but intervene it with a top-down approach, it means that fear is in place. Fear, that employees might not be able to handle tough news, fear that the leader’s authority and legitimacy might be challenged if they don’t call the shots, fear that the leader might look like a fool, presenting the team a problem before having a solution. The authenticity, humbleness and vulnerability of the leader/coach/CEO/owner is crucial. However, if the advice process has to be temporarily intervened, provide everyone with the full transparency about the latitude and time frame of the top-down decision making procedures and appoint an “advice seeker” for the process who will not be likely to exercise the power given to them after the situation is over.


Since employees in a self-managed restaurants don’t have a box to fill in a hierarchy pyramid, it is easier to change up your responsibilities if you fail to deliver or have taken too much on your plate. Try to match everyones skills, interests and talents to help with performance issues, before thinking about firing someone. Restaurant team is often referred to as a family. But you don’t fire your family member for making a mistake either? It might even be more likely, that the person who doesn’t fit in leaves before being dismissed (common in Teal organizations).

The dynamics of self-management naturally provides hints that someone might not be in the right place. Not everyone likes the self-management style or gets along with their peers. If things don’t work out, is better to think it as a new opportunity, new beginning, instead of a failure or a betrayal. As they say, “There is no such thing as failure, only chances to learn and grow”.

In a forced dismissal (eg. someone breaches the company values), peer-based mechanism/process takes place. Try to find solution within the team or if that’s not enough, invite the coach or an external facilitator to mediate. Sometimes a new chance is given or found together, sometimes the trust is irreversible broken and it’s time to leave. It is important to try to find a solution together, with the help of a panel if needed, and truly show that everything has been tried to solve the problem and keep the person in the company.

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Mika Ammunét Written by:

Bar Manager, Future Bar Owner

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