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Employee conflict is an inevitable and natural part of working with collaborative teams. Yet, in a remote context, we tend to shy away from conflict, given how teams are physically separated and may turn to a “just get on with it” mindset. It’s important for managers to remember: you’re not only managing your team’s workflow, you’re also making sure team dynamics have solid foundational elements like trust, support, and open communication.
According to Officevibe’s user data:
21% of employees don’t feel that communication among their peers is honest and transparent.
Let’s examine how managers can spot warning signs of workplace conflict with their remote teams and how to diffuse these instances for a positive work environment.
What causes conflict on teams? It can be a number of things. Many of them you can control as a manager, so long as you intentionally take the time to check in on each one.
Here’s how managers can pinpoint the tell-tale signs of workplace conflict. This may be more difficult to pinpoint in a remote context, paying special attention on virtual calls is helpful.
Addressing conflict as it occurs encourages a solution-oriented mindset further diffusing the situation and prevents it from escalating.
Discuss the facts and avoid drawing attention towards behavioural patterns. If these need to be discussed, book separate 1-on-1’s with each employee.
Meditation goes a long way. Use effective communication to maintain a solution-oriented mindset. Use language that prevents blame, and allow each employee to speak about their situation.
Adequately timing discussions give employees the space to express how they feel and equalizes the playing field. This prevents conflict-avoidance and interruptions.
Recap and solidify actionable next steps agreed upon by each employee. Once everyone agrees to possible solutions, ask each employee to finish this sentence: I commit to ____ and will show this in my behaviour by _____ this change will begin _____.
It’s your responsibility as a leader to make sure that employees are adjusting their behaviour. Book a follow-up meeting to discuss how the conflict has evolved and remain inquisitive during regularly scheduled 1-on-1s.
Because your team comes with different personality types, you’ll see different types of conflict. Some people avoid conflict and confrontation, while other employees might revel in a good heated discussion, or even seek it out.
Conflicts may be multidimensional. Consider if the conflict in question is manifesting as:
The Harvard Business Review categorizes conflict in the workplace under two banners: Hot conflict and cold conflict.
Knowing the difference helps when it comes to conflict management:
Managing conflict as it comes up will always be part of your role, and to keep conflict at bay as much as possible, you can do some solid preventive work. Especially in a remote work environment when connections are harder to build between screens.
Managers and teams need to prioritize their emotional intelligence and ground work to reduce the chances of potential conflict. Here’s how:
Set up a group brainstorming session to define acceptable behaviours and determine the team’s values to live by. Team principles or guiding norms become a sort of contract between employees based on mutual respect and promotes empathy and open communication. The more you influence your team to identify with a culture of respect, the easier it will be for them to productively iron out their wrinkles.
Here’s an example of our team principles, and the story of the steps we took to build them:
Officevibe helps managers collect tangible insights on something otherwise really hard to measure: relationships between peers.
Our employee survey questions give managers all the data they need to learn when things are going well between peers, and when they need to intervene. Using this data, managers can host team meetings for productive conversations. As a result, deep-diving in to anonymous feedback related to a particular metric to fix concerns on their team.
Start measuring peer to peer relationships, and other metrics that help managers make their teams great.
Officevibe helps you keep track of clear trend insights within your team
As a leader, ironing out conflict within your team is part of your responsibility. Connecting with your team frequently about how they’re feeling and how you can better support them is the first step. If employee conflicts are particularly difficult, don’t be afraid to host a remote feedback workshop and leverage Officevibe’s pulse surveys, and 1-on-1 conversation tool to get everyone’s cards on the table.
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