How to Foster Constructive Conflict in a Virtual Workplace

While managers often aim to avoid conflict in the workplace, sometimes it may be necessary to stimulate confrontation. However, it’s important to understand that not all conflicts are harmful, and some can be beneficial. The key is to encourage constructive rather than destructive conflict, as studies have shown that this can foster a productive and collaborative team dynamic. This allows team members to gain valuable insight into different perspectives and realities.

Nurturing a culture of constructive debate is critical for remote teams, as they often consist of people from diverse backgrounds. This creates an environment where innovation is fostered, and fresh ideas are encouraged.

What precisely constitutes a constructive disagreement?

When individuals or groups hold contrary positions on fundamental issues, it results in conflict. The goal of constructive conflict is to recognize and appreciate different viewpoints and outlooks. Teams may have passionate discussions when tackling company-related tasks or other subjects. But when leaders manage conflict effectively, it can evolve into a positive exchange of ideas for improving circumstances.

In such situations, constructive conflict can be advantageous to teams as it provides a secure environment for members to express their views openly and honestly regarding a controversial matter.

Understanding Constructive Conflict

To boost productivity through innovative thinking, companies should create an atmosphere that encourages constructive disagreements. It’s not a contest to determine who is right or has the most convincing argument; everyone’s input is crucial, and all perspectives must be considered while making decisions.

Here are some of the characteristics of productive disagreements:

  • Focuses on issues
  • Cooperation
  • Commitment to conflict resolution
  • Respecting the dignity of others (Listening to fellow team members – acknowledging their diverse views)
  • Candor and open communication
  • Encourages all team members affected by the disagreement to express themselves
  • Encourages self-reflection and contemplation

The Advantages of Constructive Business Conflict

In the workplace, conflicts can be either destructive or advantageous. To comprehend these two forms of conflict, let’s examine some instances that demonstrate how constructive conflict can emerge.

Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario that is all too common: we are developing bespoke software for a significant client and have been collaborating effectively. However, an important decision needs to be made, and we have not yet reached a consensus. We have been asked to attend a meeting to further discuss the matter after a week of deliberation.

Example A: At the beginning of the meeting, the manager stressed the significance of reaching a decision. To facilitate this, two members were engaged in a conversation. Regrettably, this quickly turned into a tense exchange. The manager, becoming increasingly exasperated, raised their voice to refocus the team. To ensure that the client’s deadline was met, the team appointed a project manager, who would lead the members in the decision-making process.

Example B: A manager gathered their team in a meeting room to discuss the deadlines they needed to meet. They assured everyone that they would have an opportunity to voice their opinions before the discussion started. After everyone had shared their views, the manager summarized the important points they had agreed upon, and any outstanding concerns they had. By the end of the meeting, the team had developed a more solid plan for proceeding, and had a better grasp of the situation.

Example A represents an adverse workplace conflict, whilst Example B exemplifies a positive disagreement between coworkers.

Successful managers can organize meetings that encourage a supportive atmosphere, allowing individuals to voice their opinions and cooperate to create innovative solutions.

Options to avoid destructive conflict and techniques for promoting beneficial conflict

How can you encourage productive argumentation when working remotely?

Remote work has become a new normal due to the pandemic, and many established businesses have had to adapt significantly to it. Remote job opportunities are now gaining popularity. Based on a survey by Owl Labs, 77% of respondents expressed their satisfaction with the possibility of remote work following the pandemic, with 75% reporting to be equally or more productive while working from home, in contrast to pre-pandemic times.

Managing a remote team can provide numerous benefits, but it is crucial for leaders to be prepared to handle conflicts efficiently. To promote positive conflict, it’s valuable to embrace diversity and create platforms where teams can voice their opinions and listen to those of their colleagues. Leaders must be skilled in managing disagreements in a manner that enables everyone to have a voice and arrive at an agreement.

Here are five recommendations for encouraging constructive arguments in a remote workplace:

The problem should not be overlooked.

During virtual meetings, it is crucial not to neglect any warning signs of potential team issues, even if certain behaviors appear to be unusual for the team. Although some leaders may believe that avoiding such concerns is the right approach, in reality, this strategy frequently exacerbates the problem.

Promote an environment of mutual respect and encourage all team members to share their views and recommendations. If needed, set up one-on-one meetings to gain a deeper understanding of each team member’s perspective.

Reply and express your ideas

In a remote team, providing feedback is crucial for cultivating an effective work atmosphere. It’s not unusual for some team members to feel disconnected when they can’t interact with the rest of the group in-person. If anyone exhibits resistance to new ideas or hostile conduct, it’s advisable to schedule a private meeting with the relevant individual to help them recognize their error.

The goal of feedback sessions is to provide team members with constructive feedback on their performance, highlighting areas that need improvement and offering guidance to help them enhance their skills. Furthermore, if a team member is performing exceptionally well, the feedback should acknowledge and appreciate their hard work.

Conduct efficient meetings

Productive conflict can be fostered through well-planned virtual meetings. These meetings should not be viewed as monologues, where only one person speaks and everyone listens, but rather as an opportunity to gain insight into what others are doing and to ask for assistance when necessary.

To obtain insight into each team member’s ideas regarding a project, it can be advantageous to organize discussions and brainstorming sessions. To achieve the best possible outcome, it is paramount to encourage all meeting participants to express their opinions.

Encourage diversity and inclusivity

A diverse remote work environment does not require recruiting individuals from various ethnicities, nationalities, and backgrounds. It’s also crucial to consider and incorporate different viewpoints and perspectives. Studies have demonstrated that team members who work in a varied atmosphere feel more appreciated and respected by their employers. Therefore, it’s vital to motivate all team members to freely express their suggestions and opinions, which may prove beneficial in the long run.

Prioritizing diversity enables us to recognize and reward original ideas and innovation. Frequently, individuals may hesitate to share their thoughts for fear of encountering resistance, when in reality, it may lead to the creation of something even more exceptional.

Activities to foster team unity

When a team is united, they can address both favorable and unfavorable situations efficiently and effectively. When disagreements emerge, teams that lack cohesiveness and only communicate when required are less likely to take the time to comprehend diverging viewpoints. Additionally, teams may find it difficult to stay connected when working remotely if they are not motivated to do so.

Virtual “water cooler” conversations, such as playing games, online chats, and organizing “happy hours,” can help bridge differences and cultivate stronger relationships among team members. These activities may prove highly beneficial in developing team spirit.

Managing a team is a challenging responsibility that necessitates commitment, foresight, and enthusiasm to succeed. With the appropriate strategies and protocols in place, remote teams can accomplish remarkable feats. If managing your remote team persists to be a challenge, several tools are accessible that can assist you in doing so more effectively.

Join the Top 1% of Remote Developers and Designers

Works connects the top 1% of remote developers and designers with the leading brands and startups around the world. We focus on sophisticated, challenging tier-one projects which require highly skilled talent and problem solvers.
seasoned project manager reviewing remote software engineer's progress on software development project, hired from Works blog.join_marketplace.your_wayexperienced remote UI / UX designer working remotely at home while working on UI / UX & product design projects on Works blog.join_marketplace.freelance_jobs