When working as a remote team, conflict is inevitable.
Even in a physical office, employees can be prone to conflict. The unfortunate truth is that fully remote teams tend to have more conflict due to the nature of the work style. There are a lot of reasons this can happen. Sometimes it’s a misunderstanding due to an accidental game of broken telephone or sometimes just a pure lack of communication.
Employee conflict is a natural factor of any high-functioning workplace. While conflict sounds negative, well-managed conflict has the power to increase trust and respect in the workplace. Well-managed conflict has the potential to strengthen your team and create systems and processes that can lessen additional conflict in the future.
The good news is that you’re already on the first step to managing conflict in your remote team. Read on for some tips for how to manage conflict in your remote teams:
1. Determine communication channels
Communication is key in remote teams. But it’s up to you to create channels for the conversations to occur. Even if there are important discussions to be had, without the right communication channels, conflict is bound to occur.
As a leader, it’s important to provide parameters around how your team should communicate. What channels should your team be using for day-to-day communications? Where should feedback on ongoing projects be shared?
It’s also helpful to provide guidance around what information is expected to be shared through private channels, such as email, and what conversations should take place using public team messaging tools.
2. Provide opportunities for communication
Unlike in a physical office, you can’t just turn around and speak to team members in a remote workplace. Sometimes this means employees hold onto concerns longer than they should. As a result, their frustrations build up further over time, until it ultimately turns into conflict.
One of the best ways to mitigate these issues is by providing opportunities for open communication within your team. This can be done in many different ways. Sometimes this can mean holding a team-wide forum, such as a Q&A or even hosting regular team meetings. Other times, this means having one-on-one conversations to provide a safe space to share feedback.
3. Invest in a shared workspace
It’s easy for remote employees to feel like they’re working in a silo. Not only does this make it challenging for your team to collaborate, but it makes it difficult for individuals to deliver top-quality work.
Create a shared workspace using a productivity or project management tool like Heycollab to help foster collaboration. Platforms like Heycollab are designed to provide transparency across teams. The core features of most remote project management tools include the ability to message and comment directly on the platform so teams can communicate seamlessly. It also allows teams to easily transition work between employees.
Shared workspaces encourage your employees to collaborate and work together on a regular basis. Ultimately improving communication and reducing the likelihood of conflict across your teams.
4. Outline clear expectations
Who is responsible for what? When are deliverables due? What is the scope of the project?
Clearly outlining the expectations can help avoid any confusion amongst your team. Conflict often occurs when there are miscommunications around responsibilities.
Using project management tools like Heycollab, you can easily assign tasks to individual team members. You can even assign multiple team members to one task if there are several stakeholders involved.
Project management platforms help provide transparency around expectations and also improve accountability across your team.
5. Prioritize company culture
The workplace needs more than just work to thrive. It’s also important to help your team bond and engage with one another.
Companies and teams that have a strong company culture are less likely to struggle with employee conflict. By aligning on core values, your employees will feel more motivated and be more productive.
Take the time to get to know each other as a team and celebrate your wins. Whether it’s through virtual coffee chats or virtual team events, improving company culture will impact the level of conflict in your business.
The bottom line
Conflict can be frustrating for remote teams. High levels of conflict reduces employee engagement and impacts productivity.
However, you won’t be able to completely avoid conflict in the workplace. But by putting systems and processes in place, you can minimize conflicts and efficiently manage any disputes that do occur.
From implementing remote team software, like Heycollab, or creating new opportunities for communication, there are many methods for managing conflict in remote teams. You might even find these tactics strengthen and empower your employees.
By recognizing the need for these changes, you’ll be building a more productive and successful remote team in no time.