How to Keep Friction from Ruining Your Business

Friction is a powerful physical force. It’s the action that stops cars when we brake and it lets water carve stone. A little friction, over time, can create a monumental result. like the Grand Canyon.

Friction can also erode value in our businesses, undermining goals and slowing progress.

stop friction at work

Does your company suffer from turf wars, petty squabbles and ongoing discord? That friction can have a far greater impact than competitive challenges and market conditions.


Because it eats up your company from within. Like a a slow-growing cancer, friction, unchecked, can do irreparable damage.

Fight the Cancer

Friction freezes communication, slowing your ability to quickly respond to challenges and opportunities. It seeps into customer interactions,  reflecting the unhealthy culture within. It blinds employees to the talents of others, and turns a business into a battlefields.

What can you do?

It’s tempting to ignore a little friction between employees or teams, hoping it will go away. Allowing friction to fester usually makes things worse.

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When you see the signs that people aren’t getting along, that teams have taken sides, it’s time to take action. (Of course, it’s best to build a proactive, collaborative culture from the start, but that’s a topic for a different post.)

Here are three ways to ease the friction, and get everyone focused on what matters most:

  1. Appeal to a shared self-interest. People fight when they feel they are in opposition. Show them where they align and they can start forming some common ground. Instead of individual bonuses, try an incentive that requires everyone to work together. Highlight the fact that when the business grows, everyone benefits.
  2. Find a common goal. In my experience, simply reminding everyone that they share the same purpose can work wonders. This is especially true in small businesses where everyone has a sense of ownership, and in organizations built on a sense of mission. Ask, “Why are we all here?” Explore how the discord is undermining the mission, and point everyone in the right direction again.
  3. Reopen communication. When people stop talking, assumptions reign. Text, email and even online “collaboration” tools take away the human touch. Encourage face-to-face and telephone conversations that allow more nuances to become apparent. Facilitate “safe conversations” where people can speak their mind and express their feelings without judgement. Get issues on the table, and really listen before responding.

Rise to the Challenge

Keeping discord at bay is challenging. Fortunately, when people see their leadership modeling good communication and healthy interactions, the effect filters down.

Do something before petty annoyances get out of hand. Don’t ignore them or assume they’re not really a business issue. It’s better to address friction head on. When you do, you’ll create a healthier business, with happier employees and better customer relationships.

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