I was a terrible self-storage manager. I was always trying to improve and adjust every process. As a result, some of my coworkers loved me, others didn’t. Now that I’m a supervisor and responsible for an entire team of people, I still aim to constantly make things better. So naturally, some of my facility managers love me, other don’t. My management style doesn’t work for everyone, and disagreements can occur.
Workplace conflict can come in many forms. It might be a personality clash, a miscommunicated expectation, or a disagreement about a certain process or policy. Any of these can be difficult to navigate, particularly if it feels like you’re speaking different languages. Everyone has their own opinions and perspectives, and disputes can get emotional. The anxiety of the situation can be compounded if the person with whom you disagree is a superior—perhaps your district manager or even the owner.
Whether you’re naturally averse to confrontation or like to tackle a challenge head on, you must work through your issues. It’s how self-storage managers and supervisors get through their occasional scuffles that ultimately defines their working relationship and impacts business success. Being able to discuss and settle your differences will ensure a healthier, more productive work environment for everyone. If you need to sort things out with your boss, here are some approaches to try.
Assume Good Intentions
Attitude is everything. Whatever is top-of-mind for you is what you’ll ultimately see. For example, if you believe everyone is out to get you, fails to understand you or wants to harm you, you’ll be proven right again and again. Rather than get stuck in that negative mentality, try to develop a positive outlook. Assume your superiors are doing their best and have your best interests at heart. Until proven otherwise, assume your owner and supervisor have good intentions. Give them the benefit of the doubt, and you’ll feel better.
Talk It Out
If your owner or supervisor says or does something that bothers you, talk to him, not about him. Discussing the issue with other people may bring allies to your side, but it won’t settle the situation. Friends and family will agree with you because they love you. Coworkers may nod their heads and smile, but they may also mentally mark you as a troublemaker and begin keeping their distance.
Take the mature approach and discuss the issue openly and honestly. When you’re ready to talk, let your supervisor know you’d like to address something that’s been upsetting you. Clearly state what occurred and why it’s an issue. Try to steer clear of judgment or blame. Keep the conversation centered on the problem, and don’t make it personal. Your goal should be to seek a resolution, not to attack.
Opt for Platinum Over Gold
Growing up, most of us are taught to treat others the way we would want to be treated. That’s the Golden Rule. Unfortunately, it isn’t always good advice because it ignores individual personalities and preferences. Instead, it’s better to treat others the way they want to be treated. That’s the Platinum Rule, and it works great when attempting to avoid or resolve conflict.
I’m a detailed person who enjoys strategy and execution. Big ideas, vague goals and too much talking wears me out. When I’m with someone who likes to theorize and brainstorm, however, I try to be mindful of the fact that they enjoy making loose plans and sharing visions. I need to listen and let them talk. Similarly, I appreciate it if they respect my need to bring things down to earth, focus on specific goals and agree on next steps.
It takes practice, but accommodating others’ individual styles will help you succeed. If your supervisor is a direct communicator, try not to beat around the bush. If he has a softer, tactful demeanor, try to emulate those qualities as you work through your differences. Pay attention to the words he uses, his general behavior and how he responds to various situations. These are all cues as to his preferences. If you make a sincere effort in this area, you’ll go far in life.
Be Honest and Empathetic
This is extremely helpful in resolving conflict with superiors and coworkers. Be truthful about the situation and how it’s impacted you. Be transparent about what you’d like to happen, accepting that you bear some responsibility in finding a solution. Finally, put yourself in your supervisor’s shoes to understand his perspective.
For example, let’s say your boss wants you to raise rental rates on your existing self-storage tenants, but you don’t feel the time is right or have some other reason to hesitate. You each have your own viewpoint. Try to see his, and perhaps he’ll do the same.
You may be thinking about the work the increase will create, plus how your customers will feel and respond. But your boss has a budget to meet, plus an owner and investors he has to keep happy. Neither of you is wrong. Some empathy may help you find a middle ground. Perhaps if you’re more understanding about the need for greater revenue, he’ll be more sensitive to the potential challenges you’ll face, such pushback from rankled customers. In the end, you might settle on a phased increase plan, or a smaller rate bump.
When you have a conflict with a supervisor, some introspection will help you determine if the problem really lies with you. Do you understand what he’s asking you to do and why? Does it make sense? Do you need more (or less) guidance? Is there a precedent for the situation?
When you find yourself in conflict with your owner or boss, don’t let it languish. Remember to begin with an assumption of good intentions and then discuss it openly and honestly. Treat him the way he prefers to be treated, and try see things from his perspective. In the end, you’ll find a resolution that works for you both, and your relationship and operation will be all the better for it.
Magen Smith is a co-founder of Atomic Storage Group, a boutique self-storage management company, and owner of Magen Smith CPA, an outsourced accounting firm specializing in self-storage. She’s also a partner in Safe Space Development, which builds self-storage properties. Magen started in the industry as a facility manager and has held nearly every operational role. She has a passion for the industry, helping owners improve their businesses, teaching asset management and conducting self-storage audits. To reach her, e-mail [email protected].