July 15, 2022

How to Effectively Resolve Conflict Within Virtual Teams

By: sanjay sathe

Contradictory to common belief, conflict is not always bad or something we should avoid, like the conflict or arguments arising in brainstorming sessions. However, a conflict that disrupts the team and hampers productivity is unacceptable. Managing such disagreements can be tricky, especially within a remote team. Explore some ideas to resolve conflict within the virtual team here.

How to Effectively Resolve Conflict Within Virtual Teams

A conflict between two ideas leading to a healthy discussion or argument is expected in a brainstorming session. Usually, an idea evolving from such a session might lead to innovation. Such productive conflict situations are always encouraged by the managers and leaders. However, a conflict that disrupts the team is not an acceptable situation and hampers productivity. At the same time, we also know that often it becomes impossible to avoid conflict within a team. Managing such conflicts is always tricky, especially within a remote team.

The option of face-to-face reconciliations makes the situation less formidable. As they say, vent your thoughts, shake your hands, and let go of all grudges against each other. However, when that option is unavailable, you should find creative ways to resolve conflicts. Whatever you do, always ensure that you nip these conflicts in the bud and don’t let them blow out of proportion. Conflict management is a must-have skill as you would not want your team to lose motivation, negatively impacting efficiency.

Despite taking measures to avoid conflicts, they still occur occasionally, especially within a virtual team. After all, we work with humans. Let’s explore some ideas to resolve conflicts effectively with remote teams:

  • Discuss the conflict – When there is a conflict, always review it first. Discuss with the people involved and try to understand what has happened. Don’t form an opinion without seeing the full picture. Hold a separate meeting with the parties involved and then arrange for a moderated joint discussion. It always gives better results. Avoid writing any email. Rather go for a video call.
  • Deal with empathy and understanding – No matter whether there’s a conflict among anyone in your team, always be understanding and compassionate in your stance. After all, everyone works to the best ability toward a common goal. Where human emotions are involved, tread cautiously, and empathy is the best way to deal with a tough situation.
  • Analyze the situation clinically – Always ensure that you analyze the situation clinically and not take any sides. You must remain objective and come to an unbiased resolution keeping in mind the bigger picture and company goals.
  • Team building activities for the bonding – Team building activities from time to time go a long way in creating a healthy working relationship within your team. It makes work easier for everyone within the team. After all, as Mary Scannell writes in ‘Big Book of Conflict-Resolution Games,’” by participating in conflict-resolution games, team members build trust, improve communication, and challenge ineffective processes to create a more productive and effective team.”

Resolution of conflicts is not always easy and might already impact productivity or loss of all-important time. So, it is good to follow the age-old saying, “prevention is better than cure.” Here are some ways to prevent conflicts from taking place:

  • Build trust within the team – Transparency and trust go hand-in-hand with each other. Trust is something you need to develop within your team for team success. Trust building goes a long way in making your team feel close enough to share their challenges, opinions, and intentions, thus preventing conflict or dispute.
  • Establish team agreement – Ensure you create team agreement on important elements such as information required for the project to run smoothly, communication medium and frequency, and collaboration techniques.
  • Share a virtual workspace – Managers and leaders nowadays support the usage of virtual workspaces for ease of collaboration. Use project management software to share documents, manage workflows, collaborate, and monitor project progress efficiently.
  • Daily short standup meeting – You can avoid many conflicts if you set a brief regular meeting every day. These short meetings will work as a project update and a resolution of any challenges anyone in the team might be facing. It also helps in team bonding.
  • Set clear procedures and guidelines – Establishing formal processes and guidelines is essential for managing remote teams efficiently. These guidelines should clearly outline the communication plan, the decision-making process, and the conflict resolution strategy.

To sum it up, conflict resolution takes time and effort. Also, managing remote teams is much different from office-based teams. Due to the Covid19 pandemic, now most companies are working on a hybrid model to offer employees more flexibility. In such a situation, communication is the key. Ensure clear communication within the team regarding the project so that your team knows what is expected from them. Managing a virtual team is no easy task. However, following the above pointers will help you overcome this daunting challenge and succeed.

Conflict resolution is, after all, a much-appreciated skill set.