Thrust into Remote Work Because of COVID-19: Resolving Conflicts in Remote Teams
Because of Covid 19, Stockholders and managers start realizing that working from home is here to stay, which will implicate a change in the way the teams are managed. Some of these changes must be the way to deal with conflicts between team members remotely. However, managing conflict in remote teams comes with specific issues you need to prepare for before you attempt a resolution.
Usually conflicts are always the kind of issues that influence the productivity of a team. Individuals may not be OK with it, but conflict can be unavoidable at times. It occurs in both personal and work lives and is, in reality, a part of life. Also, conflict isn’t all awful and bad. Some conflicts can be valuable and, hence, must not be avoided at all costs. but first …
What Is Conflict? and what is Workplace Conflict?
Conflict happens once 2 or additional individuals (or a group) do not agree on outcome and believe that their outcome is that the best, and only, one. Conflict also happens when the conflicted parties agree on the outcome but don’t agree on the best path to get there.
Workplace conflict is, in some respects, no different than any other type of conflict. Two or more parties in the workplace are in disagreement about something and are having trouble coming to an agreement or solution.
Why Does Conflict Happen in a Remote Team?
The types of workplace conflict are the same for all companies, no matter where the team is located. However, some of the issues teams face managing conflict include all the unique ways conflict can fester and grow in a remote environment.
One particular aspect of working remotely is that while you are part of a team, you work by yourself. You don’t “see” your coworkers every day, and you don’t hang out with them by the water cooler and chat about your weekend plans.
In remote-friendly companies, written communications tend to be the norm, particularly when the team is scattered across multiple time zones. Even when the team is in the same time zone but working at home, it’s easier to send an email or IM than call someone. But, sometimes, what’s meant to be a short, brief, and straight to the point message can come across as rude or demeaning. Though the sending party likely did not mean it that way, tone in an email message can be hard to create. When the receiving party is angered or hurt by the tone, conflict can happen.
How to Stop Conflict Before It Starts?
Of course, the best way to manage workplace conflict is to stop it before it starts.
For example, if two team members are arguing over the right way to approach a task and you try to diffuse the argument with a “Now, now, children” type of comment, you devalue both team members and their opinions in front of the rest of the team. This can be demoralizing, damaging their trust in you and each other.
As the manager, you will have to diffuse and settle arguments. There’s no avoiding it. But doing it respectfully and with dignity will impact how the team manages and handles future conflicts.
Regular meetings are the first step toward building a team that understands and respects each other, but don’t limit the meetings to “business only.”
Ask questions about hobbies, personal interests, or family to gain a deep understanding of who everyone on the team is and how they think through and solve problems.
Make It Safe
As the manager, remain open to hearing about team conflicts, no matter how petty they might seem to you. These small issues can lead to larger ones if not resolved early on. Equally as important, you need to help staff find solutions, without devaluing how they may feel about the conflict.
Discuss It Online
Using an online forum helps teams avoid and resolve conflicts by:
- Solving problems quickly. Discussing things in a virtual forum lets the team talk about issues that arise as they happen, instead of letting them grow and worsen in the background.
- Asking for input. Much like an in-person brainstorming session, team members can ask for input and advice online, which can help them solve problems and see things from a different perspective.
- Disinhibiting. Though online disinhibition can create conflict, it can stop it, too. People are more likely to “speak their minds” online than in person. That means they are more likely to say what they really think, instead of voting “yes” because of peer pressure.
Successfully Managing Conflict When You Work From Home
Dealing with conflict is generally not an enjoyable experience for managers. However, recognizing that conflict is inevitable and that it can be healthy for your company goes a long way toward managing it and your team in a positive and proactive way.
The pandemic may have shifted the conflicts you and your team are facing. Given the uncertain future of work (and where your team may work from), you may be a remote manager for a long time.