Conflicts within the workplace are inevitable because not everyone thinks in the same way, or shares the same ways of working. That is why most companies include conflict management in their SOPs. However, things get tricky when the physical workplace is edited out of the picture.
With the strain the pandemic has put on all of us, it is likely that conflicts have become more commonplace across remote teams. An incorrectly phrased message can trigger a virtual commotion.
Inability to reconcile in person leaves us questioning how we can solve the issue virtually. This article aims to give you a walk through of possible reasons such conflicts arise, how to prevent them and what to do when they happen.
WHAT CAUSES WORKPLACE CONFLICT?
- Poor communication can ruin chances of getting team work done in a timely and effective way. When working from home, teams use emails and messages which are devoid of non-verbal cues. We depend on these to properly understand each other. Zoom and Skype are also used but they still differ from in-person meetings.
Adding fuel to the fire, when we send messages requesting information, we often don’t get immediate replies, even for urgent matters. Of course, what’s urgent to one individual isn’t necessarily as urgent to another. Ignored and missed messages can also lead to slowed workflow and hostility.
- Sometimes concrete issues such as those that relate to employees’ work and how they get things done can cause disputes within the team. Some examples include division of resources amongst the team, differences in opinion and interpretation of facts.
- Someone may be able to work the same regular hours from home as they did in the office because they have the time and ability to do so, while others at a different life stage may work around other domestic responsibilities, such as parenting. This may lead to some people working at a quick pace and others slower … cue more recriminations.
- Having a team of diverse personalities can be exceptional but when working from home, people are more likely to be themselves and that makes the situation prone to misunderstandings. Let’s say you’re discussing a project and one assertive team member constantly talks over a passive one. This can lead to simmering under the surface, resentment, anger and jealousy, preventing them from working together seamlessly to complete a project.
HOW TO PREVENT CONFLICT IN THE WORKPLACE
1. Create a team agreement to solve conflicts peacefully and include penalties if this agreement is not followed
2. Build trust within the team and maintain it
3. Keep company values intact when working remotely
4. Create and share a virtual workspace
5. Step up your team’s communication game
6. Deal with and solve issues as soon as they arise and not later
7. Conduct regular checks on each team member
HOW TO RESOLVE CONFLICT IN THE WORKPLACE
- Talk to someone. Whether it is your manager or a fellow team member, this can help to ease the anger and make it easier for you to approach the person you argued with and apologise if it was your fault.
- Place emphasis on empathy as one of your company values and ensure that it is maintained
- Be transparent about roles and responsibilities whether it is about the job or a specific team project
- Create virtual spaces or activities for team members to participate and interact everytime there is a conflict.
Virtual and remote work environments can become a feeding ground for conflict. If left unchecked, conflict escalates, and can tear a team apart. Small businesses are more prone because with a small number of employees; if one is lost then significant operational memory disappears.