I’ve been working with a remote team since 2010. It was something that kind of came natural to me with my introverted nature. I have experience working in an office setting. I like it. But the remote thing kind of appealed to me.
Remote working has its challenges. One is conflict resolution. That might seem a little confusing. After all, if you’re not in the same location can there really be that much conflict? In my experience it can definitely be true. It’s not that dissimilar to an office setting.
Anytime you have people working together there will be disagreements and hurt feelings and the whole deal.
Here are some ways to possibly resolve some of the inevitable conflict with your remote team.
1. Assume That People Are Smart
First, try to get everyone involved in the conflict to come into the resolution thinking that all others are smart. Sometimes we like to dismiss those that disagree with us by just assuming that they don’t know what they’re talking about. But we never stop to think that they may be feeling the exact same way about us.
Try to think of something the other person has done well for the company. Go back through your online chats and emails. You’ve probably recognized something they’ve done in the past.
2. Express The Importance Of Conflicting Ideas In Business
If you’re the leader trying to resolve an issue, express that you value conflicting ideas for the organization. You don’t really want to have everybody always agreeing on everything in an organization. You need conflicting ideas to push beyond your comfort zone. You need it to discover new and better ways of doing things.
It might be good to have a separate phone call or chat with each person. Listen to their perspectives. Assure them that you appreciate how they are feeling and what they bring to the team. Explain that disagreement can be a good thing, but that it can come with the risk of elevated emotions and conflict.
3. Seek Out Current Emotions
Try to assess the current emotions each party is feeling. One may be feeling very passionate about something while the other is kind of even keel. They may both be feeling angry and on edge. Maybe there has been something bubbling under the surface for awhile and this latest issue was kind of the last straw for both.
Do your best to figure out what’s going on, what led to it and how each person is feeling. This may require calls and emails and maybe even trying to meet in person. You want to jump in as early as possible to help avoid more escalation. People typically want to be heard and understood when there is conflict.
4. Look For Common Desired Outcomes
Talk to each person. Figure out what their preferred outcome is. Usually there is some common ground that can be reached. Where each person has the same goal and while they may disagree on how to get there they can agree that they want to work toward the same outcome.
As the leader, you may have to choose sides. Be prepared to explain why. Let them know that it’s not a perfect system, but that you’re always evaluating the decisions a the company and looking to get better. See if they have suggestions for how things may work differently to avoid conflict in the future if possible.
Conflict on remote teams is similar to conflict in an office. It can get a little out of hand when you’re not talking on the phone or in person. Sometimes it may just be a misunderstand that takes a little listening on your part as the leader. But other times it will be true conflict. True disagreement. Possibly feelings that they can’t work together.
But many times a resolution is possible. There is common ground. That’s up to you to decide as the leader. And that job doesn’t really change just because you’re in a remote setting.