On-the-job conflicts happen regardless of the work setup. Hence, leaders in the new normal must know how to address arguments that can occur over emails, texts, and other channels.
According to a recent study, a whopping 81 percent of professionals have experienced some form of conflict in a remote work environment. Meanwhile, almost half or 46 percent of them use a work messaging app to express their frustrations.
Issues such as a clash of values, false accusations, and a lack of transparency about important matters are typically the culprits behind these conflicts. Left unchecked, these arguments eventually escalate, resulting in employees wanting to leave or actually leaving their remote jobs.
Hence, before you find yourself dealing with an influx of resignations, here are five strategies to help you smooth those ruffled feathers:
Talk to Each Member and Gather Facts
Gathering facts is always the first step in conflict management. But before you even consider calling for a group video call, try to get in touch with each team member individually first. Have them share their own reports by phone, email, or video.
Investigate the matter, get respective evidence from all parties, find out what the best course is moving forward, and identify what’s needed to solve the problem.
Always Be Proactive
Most, if not all conflicts, arise from miscommunication. A remote workplace, though virtual, is not immune to innuendo and mixed signals. If anything, a remote set-up can be more vulnerable to such. Thus, it’s inevitable for your team to encounter communication problems sooner or later.
This is where a little proactiveness comes in. For instance, it’s best to set up a good long-term communication plan that preempts virtual work conflicts.
Weekly meetings and/or monthly reviews keep everyone in the loop. At the same time, they will help you hold everyone accountable for their actions and deliverables.
Virtual or not, all companies struggle with unclear communication. It’s even more challenging for remote workers because they can’t just walk up to you and ask questions, unlike their onsite counterparts.
Hence, to prevent miscommunication over what needs to be done, make sure to lay all the cards on the table from the get-go. Encourage people to speak up and ask questions if certain things aren’t clear.
Done right, this can eliminate 90% of the conflict that can occur when team members are lost and confused.
Try to “Overcommunicate”
Yes, you read that right. In the context of conflict management, managers and leaders are encouraged to “overcommunicate.” This way, you get to prevent conflicts even before they escalate.
Schedule meetings whenever you feel tension building. Discuss with the team or individual/s concerned what you have observed and give them a safe environment with which to share their thoughts.
Since we’re in a remote setting, it’s necessary to have a virtual open-door policy. There’s no such thing as overcommunicating especially if you’re after ensuring healthy relations between your remote workers.
Acknowledge the Elephant in the Room
Employees leave when they feel undervalued and unimportant. Thus, rather than shrug off conflicts and rivalries, choose to discuss and remediate. Before it’s too late.
Validate your remote workers’ feelings by recognising their successes as well as their struggles within the WFH setup. More importantly, acknowledge their views. Don’t make them feel embarrassed for raising an issue either.
At the end of the day, your job as a manager is to shed light on troublesome issues in order to prevent bigger conflicts in a remote work environment.
Remote Staff has been assisting more than 3,000 Australian SMEs and professionals with the help of our skilled remote workers from the Philippines since 2007. Aside from hiring, we also provide constant support throughout the working relationship to resolve any conflicts or misunderstandings that may arise.