Managing Conflict in a Virtual Team: A Primer [2023]

Certain managers have proposed that it is impossible to resolve conflicts within remote teams, as there is a lack of face-to-face communication. This can potentially result in misconceptions between colleagues, and a fear that trying to find a solution may negatively impact morale.

Allow me to elaborate on why I wholeheartedly concur with their viewpoint. Additionally, I will provide reliable counsel on how to effectively resolve disagreements.

Virtual Teams can Swiftly Resolve any Issue that Emerges.

No, I cannot read your thoughts, but I am aware of what you are contemplating.

“If an issue arises, I can schedule a meeting for us to discuss it. Since we are located in the same place, it should not present a major challenge.

It is crucial to be cautious when scheduling a meeting to guarantee that everyone’s availability and workload are considered. Failure to do so might cause conflict, which may result in negative behavior like name-calling, gossip, lack of camaraderie, and passive-aggressive actions. This, in turn, may escalate into a dispute among several individuals due to the “trickle-down” effect.

When nonessential chit-chats or meetings in the conference room are frequent, less work is accomplished, and more drama is produced. This can lead to an unproductive environment at work, which can adversely impact the company’s financial gains. Although drama might be entertaining in a film, it is unsuitable in a professional space.

Individuals often feel more at ease in a virtual environment. They are inclined to express their viewpoints and defend their stance. Psychologically, the apprehension of being scrutinized is eliminated. In truth, individuals are more disconnected from one another. In online communication, without the fear of being met with physical rejection, people are often more open, thus decreasing the likelihood of any negative “trickle down” effects. It is recommended to minimize redundant meetings and conversations.

New psychological research recognises an occurrence known as The Online Disinhibition Effect, which is characterised by a disregard for virtual space norms. Let us now examine its implications.

As the manager of a dispersed team, you must urge your staff to be forthcoming with any possible complications they may encounter. This can assist in resolving any disputes with greater ease. To facilitate this, we should explore some effective techniques to minimise stress.

Conflict Resolution in Virtual Teams

Identifying the Problem is Crucial

It is crucial to acknowledge and determine whether the current issue is linked to the given job. Aspects such as an individual’s social abilities might also influence the resolution of the problem. To address the root cause of the problem, it is recommended to ask relevant questions and refrain from making assumptions. In case of a dispute between the designer and developer, it is prudent to inquire with them individually to avoid disturbing the company. When dealing with the next step, it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of all pertinent information.

It is Crucial to Determine the Reason for the Occurrence

Simply bringing your website designer and developer together on a video call and telling them to “work it out” is not an effective method for resolving conflicts in virtual teams. To guarantee a successful resolution, it is crucial to identify the underlying cause of the conflict and take appropriate measures to resolve it.

This could be owing to several reasons, such as cultural variances and minor misinterpretations.

It is essential for the manager to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the situation and determine the fundamental issues that led to the conflict. Failing to do so might result in a deadlock, impeding any future advancement.

Listen to Conflicting Arguments

It is advisable to address each party separately when dealing with the conflict. Assembling a group of people may raise the risk of a physical altercation. Disgruntled individuals are more likely to engage in ‘selective listening,’ where they focus solely on points where they agree, disregarding other information. It is improbable that either side will feel any empathy for the other as their frustration is understandable, and this is the root cause of the tension.

Acquire as much information as possible about the other party to gain an understanding of what it is like to be in their position.

Actions have Commenced

As they often say in movies, “the game is afoot,” Watson, if we were in a Sherlock film.

We have the problem, we have identified the causes, and now it is time to take action, as Holmes would suggest.

The following section contains more general advice. Unfortunately, there are numerous problems and solutions that require an extensive amount of time to discuss in detail. Nevertheless, you have all the necessary information and tools to make an informed decision without sacrificing your well-being or energy levels.

In this scenario, taking on the role of a mediator is crucial. Conducting research on detective work and interrogation techniques may prove advantageous. Please bear in mind the importance of diplomacy and making sure that both sides are content with the resolution. This is not a legal court, and there are no legal repercussions involved.

In situations where the suggested resolution may favor one side over the other, it is important to strive for a mutually beneficial outcome by promoting teamwork. Whenever feasible, it is essential to look for a compromise that considers the interests of all parties involved.

In a worst-case scenario, it might be necessary to assign new roles and establish fresh pairings. If the problem persists despite numerous efforts, it may be advantageous to contemplate reorganizing the teams in a virtual setting as a way of resolving any disputes.

How to Lower Tension Within Online Teams Working Together?

Please keep in mind that I did not use the term “prevent”, as let’s face it, that is almost unattainable.

CEOs of corporations like JetBlue, led by Joel Peterson, have contended that constructive disagreement can serve as a catalyst for innovation when managed effectively. Additionally, this approach has been shown to boost workflow efficiency and enhance productivity.

The takeaway is to confront danger directly and be prepared to handle it. Train yourself to embrace it.

Minimizing the occurrence of minor conflicts is crucial. Instances of this nature could comprise of miscommunication, missed deadlines, and privacy violations. To accomplish this goal, the following actions can be taken:

  • Our team should work together to build a website that promotes communication among users. All project information, deadlines, shared files, and progress updates must be readily accessible to the team to guarantee everyone is informed. Additionally, we can create public or limited sections and content to safeguard privacy.
  • To settle any possible disagreements, an unbiased third party should be chosen. Promptly resolving the issue is essential to prevent further problems from transpiring. This person could be a member of the Human Resources department, a project leader, or an individual with a problem-solving role. It is crucial for this individual to be ready to address any issues that arise promptly.
  • Efficient communication is critical for virtual teams to work together effectively. Employing various formats, such as text, video, and audio, is necessary to ensure successful communication. In certain instances, miscommunications may arise due to differences in time zones, languages, emotions, and cultural norms. To address this, it is advisable to arrange regular video calls to guarantee that every member of the team stays connected.
  • Allocate time to bond with your virtual team. Video conference calls can be a productive method to accomplish this, as it offers everyone the opportunity to discuss matters and collaborate in resolving them without outside assistance.

Problem-solving in virtual teams does not mandate an extensive understanding of the subject matter. It is vital to uphold a lucid and impartial outlook when evaluating the matter. Carefully and systematically scrutinize all facets of the issue prior to reaching a verdict. Utilize all accessible resources to devise a viable solution.

Disagreements, whether personal or professional, can surface in any environment, be it a virtual workspace or a conventional office space. The method employed to tackle the problem is pivotal. However, neglecting to take the requisite measures to deal with the issue, such as seeking out appropriate candidates, is discouraged. Let us assist you in identifying the best personnel to expand your remote workforce.

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