The 7-Step Process for Dealing with Virtual Team Conflict

Work remains work, irrespective of the location. A stellar performer continues to excel, whether at an office desk or enjoying a macchiato at a local café. Yet, even the most reliable employee may sometimes have an off day or inadvertently cause friction.

When working remotely, team dynamics can benefit greatly, as it lessens the possibility of interpersonal problems. Physical distance between colleagues negates the annoyances that might arise due to idiosyncrasies, such as pen-clicking habits. Consequently, the likelihood of rising tensions and subsequent eruptions of emotion is significantly lowered.

Even though having a team geographically dispersed can be highly beneficial, there’s always a chance of misunderstandings with team members situated in different parts of the world. In such circumstances, it may be challenging to find common ground without physically bringing everyone together. It’s important, therefore, to think about the best way to communicate and work collaboratively when colleagues can’t meet face-to-face.

You needn’t worry. At Works, we firmly believe in leveraging existing skills and innovation to manage remote teams. Nevertheless, we realize that it may be daunting to tackle this alone. You can take comfort in the fact that we have the necessary resources and support to help you achieve success. So, if you require additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Prevention is better than cure.

When managing customer complaints, it’s better to adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach. If there is a misunderstanding, a high-performing team can recognize it for what it is and resolve it, rather than taking it personally. To pull this off, remote team members must build strong relationships based on trust.

If you need assistance, you might be able to locate pertinent information on our blog. It’s vital that your team comprehends their responsibilities and takes pride in their work, as this will increase the team’s efficacy. By doing this, it will develop trust among team members and prevent disputes over insignificant matters.

If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, you’ll already know the criticality of effective communication. Merely staying in touch isn’t sufficient; the quality of the discussions is what truly matters. It’s advantageous to have regular video calls with your team, but it’s equally necessary to take breaks from work to converse about common interests and disparities.

It could be productive to keep communication channels open. It’s important to document which channels to use and when, as it can be frustrating when someone reports something multiple times on the IT support forum that should have been addressed via a phone call or email.

As the Team Manager, you’re responsible for fostering an inclusive environment where team members can freely express their opinions without fearing retribution. Instead of assuming ill-intent from someone who doesn’t understand a concept, it’s important to remember Hanlon’s Razor, which says “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance”. It’s much more advantageous to clarify the concept to the person instead of presuming the worst.

It’s crucial to guarantee that every team member can promptly communicate their concerns with me directly. For that purpose, I encourage the use of private messaging (PM) or email, which avoids the need to discuss any issues publicly, such as during the daily stand-up or on Slack.

However, even the most well-adjusted teams can encounter setbacks. As a fully remote company ourselves, rest assured that you’re receiving advice from experienced individuals. Here are our top recommendations for managing issues, should they arise.

Allocate Time for Reflection

The greatest advantage of asynchronous communication is the ability to deliberate thoughtfully before responding. Although not everyone may read emails right away, they are still the most dependable means of sharing information when an issue arises. It’s crucial to promptly present the problem and why it must be addressed, without being intimidating. This allows the recipient sufficient time to ponder what has occurred and your explanation before initiating further dialogue.

Organize Face-to-Face Meetings

To effectively resolve an issue, it’s important to sit down and have a conversation with those who are affected. When geographical separation is an issue, video calls are the next best alternative. Depending on the seriousness of the disagreement, it could be useful to have a one-on-one meeting with each person before conducting a mediated dialogue to identify and resolve the problem.

And if You’re the Problem, Then What?

There are instances when we must set aside our egos and do what’s best for ourselves, even if the issue is caused by ourselves instead of our team. What’s the next step? Would your employees feel comfortable approaching you and informing you of the problem, or will it continue to fester?

Some teams use a strategy of creating a Slack chat or forum without a hierarchy to enable employees to discuss issues without worrying about the impact on their careers. They typically designate a point person or liaison who will collect any common threads and raise them directly with you.

Avoid the Game of Telephone

Delivering a message requires awareness of one’s audience, as the Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication stresses the importance of a transmitter and receiver. It’s important to understand that the recipient’s interpretation of the message may differ from the transmitter’s intended message due to individual biases. Therefore, it’s critical to understand the audience and customise the message appropriately to ensure effective communication.

Handling a situation based on hearsay can be challenging. For instance, if you speak with Bob and he tells you that Mary and Mike are having an issue, you might want to offer a supportive message to assist them in resolving their conflict. However, if Bob’s blunt manner of delivery leads to misinterpretation, it might exacerbate the problem. Thus, it’s recommended to take charge of the situation and deliver the message yourself whenever feasible.

Address Passive Aggression Assertively

Passive-aggressive behaviour can significantly damage team productivity, even if it doesn’t necessitate formal action. It’s a very unpleasant experience for everyone involved and can escalate to a more serious confrontation. While it may be entertaining content for Buzzfeed, it doesn’t promote a professional and harmonious workplace environment.

It’s crucial to pay close attention to any passive-aggressive remarks expressed during informal conversations or meetings. These behaviours may indicate underlying feelings of insecurity or apprehension, but the individual may lack the courage to express such emotions openly. Creating a safe environment for them to express their thoughts and concerns is therefore a good idea.

When Hiring a Remote Worker, Communicate Clearly

The success of your team relies heavily on your recruitment strategies and decisions. To minimise the risk of conflicts, it’s recommended that you hire individuals with the required qualifications and a demonstrated history of remote work. If you require any assistance in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are always more than happy to assist you.

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