Written by Alexandra GavrilaSep 10, 2019

A conflict is a situation when needs, interests or values of a group of people interfere with one another. In the workplace, conflicts are common and inevitable. Conflicts can happen on any team, but conflict on remote teams need to be handled a little bit differently and it takes a few extra skills to do that.

Most often, a conflict is a result of perception but the good news is that solid ways exist to help remote teams resolve conflict.

Is conflict a bad thing?

Not necessarily. Most of the time conflicts are likely to improve team connections, not to destroy them. Therefore, it's important to apply various conflict management techniques.

These tips & tricks can help you to maintain harmony among remote teams:

1. Face to face meetings 

Research claims that initial/annual face-to-face meetings produce more successful remote teams. If time and distance won’t allow it, teams can aim for a series of virtual meetings to replicate what they would do in-person.

When people have to interact directly, it’s more difficult for them to avoid or to hide conflicts. Rather than complaining to others, team members are more likely to work out conflicts when they emerge, which prevents disputes from escalating into negative situations that are difficult to manage and not productive for their work.

2. Be proactive 

Initiate contact immediately after an issue arises with your coworkers. Acknowledge what happened. Be proactive and try to fix things but try to understand your emotions and don't let them overwhelm you. Actually, don't let them speak for you!

3. Try to understand

When you do connect, genuinely ask to hear your coworker’s feedback on the situation and be sure to fully absorb their words. Don't rush to answer before you are sure you understand. Listening is an often underrated skill that can aid in turning around a misstep or harsh response.

4. Confirm understanding 

Ask directly at the end of an email/message/call if what you’ve written/said makes sense and don't avoid questions. Make a point during team-calls of seeking responses from every person involved. Assure everyone that their concerns are heard. Follow up both one-on-one conversations and group meetings with a document summarizing decisions and actions. Ask participants to review for both understanding and possible errors. Ask for feedback and give feedback.

5. Collaborate

Any relationship, whether it's work or personal is a two-way street and likely one with a few potholes. Make it a point for you all to work together toward a mutually agreeable outcome. A resolution with buy-in will lead to long-lasting results and will help get you both back on the right footing. Invest your attention on repairing and cultivating good relationships in support of the job to be done.

Managing conflict effectively is one of the most important skills a remote leader must develop if they’re going to lead a successful remote team. Conflict itself is not negative, but if it’s not managed effectively it can have a negative impact on a remote team’s performance. By creating a positive team environment with strong relationships built upon trust, leaders can create a space where team members are free to disagree and work through their differences in ways that ultimately benefit the team rather than bring it down.

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