Dana Martin Writing

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Dana Martin Writing

“C” is for Conflict

A-Z Blogging Challenge 2018

Today’s letter o’ the day is C, and when I began writing today, my word was different, but in the post I started, I used the word “conflict” and recognized the inevitability and unavoidability of conflict in business, so I changed my letter “c” mid-stream. There’s all sorts of places you can find conflict in business, but I have only 45 minutes to write today, so let’s see how far I get.

Once upon a time, I worked at a haunted house attraction, where I was the owner’s right hand, cast manager, ran the customer service and social media–then later, marketing, set design and just about everything but lifting heavy wall panels or making things explode. I knew who was in charge, but I took ownership of MY areas, giving him freedom to do everything that he did best: building and creating. In truth, I made his work a breeze. Once we were in production, his main focus could be the ticket booth.

One night, a crew member lashed out at one of the actors in a way that was so hurtful the actor quit on the spot, igniting the protective, motherly instinct in me. I approached (that’s a nice way of staying stormed over to) the owner with likely more than a little angst; as a matter of fact, I think I insisted that this owner’s crew member should stay away from my actors forever.

Thatย went over well.ย  That night was a good learning experience for me for two reasons. One, I called them “my” actors, and to the business owner I might as well have said “This is my company and not yours.” Two, my anger may have given me a bit of attitude that I projected onto him as I rushed over in a flurry of blond, angst-y irritation.

In other words, I forgot myself.

Conflict. There it was, and he stepped right up to the pissy plate and hit one hell of a homerun. He told me never to try and tell him what to do again. He lashed back with as much irritation (and fury) as that with which I had approached him. I immediately realized what I’d done, so stood there taking his tirade while his eyes burned into me like fiery coals, stoked hotter with each word he was leveling at me.

The truth was that I deserved it; I’d caused it with my approach and tone, and he’d taken the bait and lashed right back. But let me tell you how it ended and why I use this story as my example of how to behave as a business owner.

dana martin

Backstage with my back-of-house manager, Yolanda

Only about 30 minutes later, I was standing alone in the costume room when the owner, who never had a reason to come backstage, walked inside with softer (less flame-y) eyes and a changed demeanor. I turned my surprised face to him, and he said, “I’m sorry. I should never have spoken to you like that.”

My jaw may have dropped but I quickly apologized back, saying it was my fault. But he wouldn’t hear of it. “No, I shouldn’t have said all that. I will take care of it with the actors and [the crew member].” The conversation didn’t last long, and poof! He was gone again, but not before I saw and felt the sincerity in his apology and learned about leadership.

From the moment on, he became my example of what an owner does. We will all make mistakes, lash out, say or do things we regret. But a leader handles conflicts himself–like a parent with a child–and seeks to understand and teach rather than to punish without explanation.

And we apologize when we need to.

The point is that no business is without conflict. The conflict is inevitable, but how we deal with it will be what determines our success with partners, crew members, employees, and customers.

And that man? A few years later, we became business partners and created the best haunted attraction in the central valley of California… and we never had conflict again.

Right. ๐Ÿ˜‰



  • John Holton

    Business needs conflict to move it forward. As Harvey Mackay said, “if it ain’t broke, break it!” Great post!

    • Dana

      haha…that’s a good one! Thanks for the note. I’ll be over to yours soon!

  • Annis

    Such a good point, Dana. Sometimes we think everything has to be “happily ever after,” and we forget our humanity and that things will rub us the wrong way. I think the “happily ever after” thing is what has kept women lower on the business totem pole — either fear of conflict or not wanting to rock the boat. Then there’s that whole thing of society’s idea of how a woman should behave.

    Great job on your posts, my friend.


  • The Widow Badass

    Once I was told that conflict is vital for an organization – it shows that people care. It completely turned my thinking around and I never feared workplace conflict again after that.

  • The Widow Badass

    By the way, I forgot to say – thanks for posting on this topic vital to business!

  • Jer

    I dunno, Dana, I think it’s okay for someone who isn’t the owner to take a proprietary attitude towards things in their charge, especially when the thing is people. I think a good owner sees where that passion is coming from and respects it and values it. I think this owner quickly recognized that it wasn’t you trying to usurp his authority. Anyway, I’m glad there was no further conflict.

    • Dana

      Yes, for sure! The whole goal for an owner is for our employees to take ownership–I teach on this very subject at seminars. There’s nothing more valuable to a company than when people with no real stake in ownership behave as if they own it; they make the most valued and trusted employees because they care about the company and work it like they own it. I think his issue came from the WAY I approached him (you can imagine how angry I was when someone yelled that badly at my actor)–but once he was alone and wasn’t being attacked, he saw that I was really just taking ownership and protecting the kids. I triggered his fight or flight, I think, and sometimes that makes people behave in a way they wouldn’t normally. ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus, at the time he WAS the owner, and I shouldn’t have assumed I had that much authority.

    • Jer

      Ah? My winky emoji at the very end didn’t post… ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Also, I could have been wrong, but if so, I blame my proprietary attitude of protectiveness toward you. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Dana

        It’s ok, I appreciate that about you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Vanessa

    That is a great story! And a great lesson. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Dana Martin Writing

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