Best practices for managing team conflicts while working remotely

Managing conflicts that arise when the team is working remotely comes with its own set of unique challenges. Here are our best practices.

April 27, 2020
Angelique Parungao

As with working in a team in any traditional office setting, working together remotely can also pose several situations where conflicts occur. When there's no opportunity to be in the same physical space as the people you’re working with, the most common root causes for team tension stems from miscommunications, lack of visibility or unclear division of responsibilities.

Overcoming these issues can be challenging, as teams are not able to mediate by talking face-to-face and managers may not have full visibility of any tensions arising between individual members behind the scenes. When conflicts are left unmanaged, it can cause a strain among colleagues and lead to harmful effects on the team's overall productivity, morale and engagement levels.

Here are some best practices for managing team conflicts while working remotely:

Ensure communications are inclusive and transparent

When team members are dispersed across different locations or even timezones, it can be easy for certain individuals to fall out of the loop or for information to get lost. To avoid this, use company-wide channels or group chats as much as possible to ensure announcements and updates reach everyone at the once, no matter where they are. By doing so, teams can minimize miscommunication by ensuring an open flow of information to all.

Set tasks and responsibilities clearly

Task assignments and split of responsibilities can also be an issue among remote workers. When not appropriately delegated and completed on time, tasks can be a source of tension between coworkers as it can create blockers and affects the team’s overall output. To manage this, teams should utilize a project management system where everyone has visibility into task and project progress across the team. A clear task assignment system helps boost accountability, gives transparency to the responsibilities of every team member and ensures everyone is on the same page.

Provide space to voice concerns

Without a physical space to talk about their issues as a team, it can be difficult for employees to be vocal about their feedback or suggestions. Having open forums or group chats dedicated to hearing out concerns can help address issues in a constructive and transparent way by providing a centralized channel for establishing action points. These avenues can give visibility to managers on current conflicts and its impact on overall team morale, as it can be difficult to see underlying tension with team members dispersed.

Keep conversations personal

Alternatively, certain conflicts are best handled privately between involved members. For the best results, opt for video calls to iron out misunderstandings in a more personal way where you can see each other’s body language and facial expressions, and hear each other’s speaking tone. It’s best to avoid written channels such as emails, which can derail ongoing conversations and can get lost in translation between exchanges.

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