Internal conflict

Internal conflict: Sales vs. Operations, Administrative or other Departments

Does your organization have internal conflict, veiled or obvious, between departments that are supposed to be working closely together? This might be your own small business, a large or small franchisor, or the huge global organization you work for. Some top executives even seem to encourage this behavior; perhaps they love watching the struggle or are hoping that whoever comes out on top will be the best future leader for the company? (Or does that just happen on TV?) This seems to be so counter-productive; why does this happen, and how can these conflicts be resolved?

I have found that many companies are organized into departments, or ‘silos’, where the leader of each silo feels that they must constantly protect their department’s interests or advance their own agendas politically. Often these ‘leaders’ feel that another department’s positive performance means their own department will look worse, or that it will cost them power, resources or influence. They may actively try to hold back these “internal competitors”, hoard valuable resources, or they may just withhold information or other assistance whenever possible. This is terribly divisive and undermines team spirit, employee morale and retention, and overall organizational performance.

Of course, many salespeople and managers are guilty of forgetting that other departments have limited resources and their own goals, objectives and mandates; thinking that the most important target should always be sales numbers or bottom line, or whatever matters the most to them. I’ve even seen one company with an Administrative department commonly referred to as “The Sales Prevention Team”, with seemingly good cause!

This can be very tough, even impossible, to solve if you are not in a position of control. The best solution is to have a leadership team with the overview, foresight and power to require that all departments work together towards corporate goals and the greater good. If you are not part of that leadership, your best bet may be to try to educate other employees about the benefits of cooperation or to reach out to a top executive for suggestions to resolve the conflict.

Have you seen these challenges in your work experience? How did you handle it, and were the results beneficial? Can you offer any suggestions or better ideas for handling it the next time?

– Ron Bender

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