How to Fire a Service Provider when you Dislike Conflict

Some individuals in business find conflict really difficult to handle. As a result this can provide a challenge when dealing with service providers who fail to deliver good service.

Case Study

Josh runs his own company. For at least a year he has been unhappy with the accounting firm to whom he outsources some financial functions. The problem though is that Josh avoids addressing the problem because he fears the potential conflict that can arise.

So we spend a few coaching sessions to explore the situation further. Josh learnt to fear conflict in his childhood. He had an emotionally volatile father who became quite abusive if any of his children disagreed with him. Consequently Josh learnt to keep quiet or appease his father suppressing his own feelings in the process.

It was important for Josh to understand the origin of his people pleasing behaviour. He realised that he was still carrying the fear he always had for his father. It was this fear that is still having an impact on how he manages challenges in his business. We did an exercise in which he was able to work through this fear. He also now realised that as an adult he has different choices of how to respond.

We then worked through how he could prepare for a session with his accountant. Josh had many examples of poor service delivery. Between him and his secretary they were able to come up with a list. The list included missing deadlines, delivering incomplete work, not meeting the requirements, not communicating problems, etc.

In one of our coaching sessions we did a role play in which Josh was able to talk through the list of problems. In addition he spoke about the direct impact poor service had on his business. He also mentioned the fact that he had written emails stating his displeasure which were ignored by the accountant.

I took on the role of the accountant in the role play. I reacted in a defensive way blaming Josh for not being clear with his requirements. Initially this triggered similar reactions in him as his father’s behaviour had! At first he backtracked and tried to make me feel better. But soon Josh realised he had the right to be unhappy and to express his dissatisfaction. He also learnt to take a few deep breaths which helped calm him and control his emotions.

Josh said that the trust had been broken and that he did not feel that he could work further with the accountant. Too many things had gone wrong. He realised that he would have to manage the accountant so closely and that this would divert his attention from his core business.


Although Josh still felt very uncomfortable in the role play he did feel he was better prepared for handling the actual session with the accountant.

We came up with guidelines: he needs to gather as much information on the problem as possible. In the session he would work through each of these as well as the consequences of the poor performance. This would include the impact the poor service has on his business as well as their business relationship. Ideally problems with poor service need to be addressed sooner than later. When service delivery is poor the service contract needs to be monitored more stringently.

Josh was able to handle the real-life situation with the accountant. He learnt to speak slowly as this gave him time to think. He also continued to focus on his breathing to keep him calm. In the end he also presented a written exit plan of what he expected from the accountant.

Clearly he is still not completely comfortable in conflict situations. But he certainly feels better equipped to handle performance issues by managing his own reactions and being prepared well.

Conflict handling is an important skill to learn in business as it is impossible to avoid conflict at all costs. Coaching is an ideal vehicle to help you sharpen your conflict management skills.


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Posted in Business, Self mastery.