The 7-Step Process for Dealing with Virtual Team Conflict

No matter where it is carried out, work is still work. An excellent employee is always excellent, no matter if they are in the office or working from a café while sipping their favourite macchiato. Even the most dependable employee may have a bad day or unintentionally create friction.

Working remotely can be beneficial in terms of team dynamics, as it minimizes the potential for interpersonal issues to arise. The physical separation between team members means that many of the frustrations that might have been caused by a colleague, such as a tendency to click a pen, are avoided. This can help to reduce the chances of escalating tensions leading to an outburst of anger.

Despite the many advantages of having a geographically dispersed team, there is always the potential for misinterpretation when team members are located in different parts of the world. In such a situation, it can be difficult to resolve disagreements without the physical presence of all parties involved. It is therefore important to consider how best to communicate and collaborate when team members are not able to meet in person.

Please don’t worry. At Works, we are strong advocates of utilising existing skills and being creative to manage virtual teams. However, we understand that sometimes it can be difficult to do this alone. Rest assured that we have the resources and support in place to help you succeed. So, if you feel that you need some extra assistances, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

It’s easier to avoid problems than to fix them.

When it comes to addressing customer complaints, it is beneficial to take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach. If a misunderstanding does arise, it is beneficial for the members of a well-functioning team to recognise it as such and address it accordingly, rather than taking it as a personal affront. In order for this to be possible, it is important for remote team members to cultivate strong and trusting relationships with one another.

If you require support with this, you may find relevant information on our blog. It is essential that the members of your team comprehend their roles and take pride in the work they do, as this will make the team more effective. When these steps are taken, it will build trust between team members and prevent them from arguing over trivial matters.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll be well aware of just how important it is to have effective communication. Simply staying in touch isn’t enough; the quality of the conversations you have are what really counts. It’s beneficial to have regular video conversations with your team, but it’s also important to take breaks from work to discuss your shared interests and differences.

Maintaining open lines of communication might be beneficial. Sure, that which channels to use and when are recorded; there’s nothing worse than someone repeatedly reporting something via the IT support board when it should really have been escalated to a phone call or email.

As the Team Manager, it is your role to create an environment of inclusivity, where members of the team are able to express their opinions freely without fear of any form of retribution. Rather than assuming malicious intent from someone who is unable to comprehend a concept, it is important to remember Hanlon’s Razor, which states “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance”. It is far more beneficial to explain the concept to the individual, rather than assuming the worst.

It is essential to ensure that all members of the team are able to communicate their concerns directly to me in a timely manner. To facilitate this, I encourage them to make use of private messaging (PM) or email, as this avoids the need for any issues to be discussed in a public forum such as the daily stand-up or in a conversation on Slack.

However, even in the most adjust teams, things can go south. We’re a fully remote company ourselves, so rest assured you’re hearing the voice of experience. Here are our top tips for handling problems, if they arise.

Allow some Time for Reflection

The invaluable advantage of asynchronous communication is the opportunity to think carefully about how you respond. Although not everyone may read emails immediately, they are still the most reliable way to share information when a problem arises. It is important to present the issue and why it needs to be discussed promptly, without being intimidating. This gives the recipient time to consider what has happened and your explanation before engaging in further discussion.

Meet One Another in Person

In order to effectively resolve an issue, it is important to sit down and communicate with those who are distressed. When physical distance is an obstacle, video calls are the next best option. Depending on the severity of the disagreement, it may be beneficial to speak with each party individually before bringing them together for a mediated conversation in order to identify and resolve the problem.

And if you are the issue, then what?

There are times when we have to put our pride aside and do what is best for ourselves, even if when it isn’t our team but ourselves who have caused the problem. What happens then? Would your staff feel confident to approach you and let you know or would the issue fester?

One strategy used by certain groups is the establishment of a hierarchy-free Slack chat or forum, to allow staff to discuss issues without worrying about the career implications. They usually assign someone to be point person or liaison, who will take any threads that seem to be common and raise them with your directly.

Avoid the Spread of “Chinese Whispers”

It is essential to be aware of one’s audience when delivering a message, as the Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication emphasises the need for a transmitter and receiver. It is necessary to realise that the interpretation of the message by the receiver may differ from the intended message of the transmitter, due to individual biases. Consequently, it is of utmost importance to be aware of the audience and to tailor the message accordingly in order to ensure that the message is conveyed effectively.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are relying on hearsay, it can be difficult to manage. For example, if you talk to Bob and he informs you that Mary and Mike have a problem, you may want to write a supportive message in an effort to help them reconcile. However, if Bob delivers the message using his customary brusque attitude, it may be misinterpreted and inadvertently cause more issues. Therefore, it is advisable to take control of the situation and deliver the message yourself whenever possible.

Be Aggressive with Passive Aggression

Passive-aggressive behaviour can have a hugely detrimental effect on team productivity, even if it is not serious enough to require formal action. This can be an extremely unpleasant experience for everyone involved, and can even lead to a more severe confrontation. Whilst this may make for amusing content on Buzzfeed, it is not conducive to a professional and harmonious working environment.

It is important to be mindful of passive-aggressive statements that may be expressed during water cooler conversations or meetings. These behaviours can often be an indication of underlying feelings of insecurity or apprehension, but the individual in question may lack the confidence to express their emotions openly. Therefore, it is a good idea to create a space where they feel safe and able to express their thoughts and concerns.

Communicate Clearly When Recruiting a Remote Worker

It is evident that the success of your team is dependent on the approaches and decisions you take when recruiting. To reduce the potential for disagreement, it is highly recommended that you recruit those with the necessary qualifications and a proven track record of working remotely. If you need any assistance in this area, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are always more than happy to help.

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