Managing a team remotely can have its own unique set of challenges – from overseeing and leading projects to managing conflict arising between team members.
Minor conflict within any team is normal – even in the most tranquil settings. A raised voice or a case of miscommunication can lead to a situation that requires quick intervention to defuse. With the nature of remote working, miscommunication has become the top culprit for conflict, and understanding this issue has become key to managing tense situations.
Handling discord scenarios is not always an easy feat. We've rounded up our top five expert-insights on how to successfully navigate this aspect of your role.
First and foremost – prioritise respect
As a leader, you'll need to pay close attention to the language you use. This encompasses all forms of communication – verbal, electronic and even non-verbal. Using positive and reinforcing language will help keep emotions in check and reassure your team that you are respectful of their issues and feelings.
By showing a respectful but assertive approach to handling any situation, your team will continue to have trust in your ability to help them move past any situation – whether it's related to conflict or otherwise.
Make sure you understand all sides of the story
Active listening is a skill all leaders and managers should harness. It's one of the most effective tools for handling personal and business-related issues. The more you truly understand about what's going on, the better solutions you can provide.
Without the ‘upper hand' of witnessing or experiencing the conflict situation, it can be difficult to get to the bottom of what happened and decide how to move forward. Encouraging an open dialogue, confirming understanding from all parties on what they comprehended of the conversation, and allowing room for concerns to be raised are some of the best ways to help everyone have a clearer picture of the problem.
Pick up the phone
Communication is becoming even more critical in a time of remote working. Misplaced comments or misinterpreted responses can be all that's needed to spark conflict. The easiest and most pragmatic approach to resolving conflict that stems from miscommunication is to approach it in person.
With that luxury removed due to working from home – the next best option is to pick up the phone or setup a video call. Allowing yourself to be seen and hearing your team members' tone of voice during conversation will help you to work through the situation far easier than if you were to approach it via text-based mediums.
An audio or video conversation gives room to ask more questions, read between the lines and gain insight into the underlying issue far quicker than any other method.
Set clear expectations
A misguided team is more likely to experience conflict. Part of your responsibilities as a manager is to set expectations and check in on them being met. This includes setting up “normal office” protocol as far as possible through one-to-ones and daily catch ups.
If your team members understand the part they need to play and know that your guidance and support is available, the space for interpersonal misunderstandings is quickly diminished. Clear goals also improve accountability and help to instil a sense of ownership to each team member. A team member who feels valued and understands their significance is less likely to get tied up in interpersonal discord.
It may seem on the surface as though the discord has been resolved – and in many cases it will have been. We always suggest touching base on how each person involved in the conflict has worked towards avoiding a similar situation, or simply how they're getting on after the incident.
They may be harbouring feelings which you should not allow to continue unchecked. Bear in mind that a small conflict may be the beginning signs of a decaying relationship, and keeping a close eye on that to negate future conflicts is paramount.
As leaders and managers face new challenges each day with the obstacles presented by remote working, there's never been a better time to look for ways to improve and grow their management style and leadership abilities. Why not have a look through our online courses to see how you can drive your career forward?