Team Management

Better Manage Conflict in Remote Teams

Managing a team requires a leader to be skilled in several ways. To be an effective leader in any team environment, you will need to have positivity, creativity, as well as motivation, communication and feedback skills. And in every team, whether in an office-based or a distributed setting, there will always be certain levels of friction that arise. 

You are managing a group of individuals with different personalities, behaviours and beliefs, so you can expect some conflicts to occur. And as a leader, you will need to apply all of your leadership skills to manage these conflicts properly. 

If you’re finding it challenging to manage conflicts and disputes within your remote team environment, here are four ways for you to better address any discord between your team members.

1. Manage your team professionally

As a leader to a distributed team, you should always prioritise professionalism in everything that you do. Whether you are making decisions, holding meetings, preparing reports, providing feedback, coaching or managing the performance of your team, you should always be level-headed. As leaders, we know that to foster a trusting environment, we should treat team members equally.

2. Provide feedback and practice radical candor.

One important task that a team leader must do is to communicate with his or her team members continually. This involves providing them feedback and presenting them with challenges and motivations. Remote team leaders need to create an environment where feedback is given and received and comes with a level of positive intent. Constructive feedback if done correctly, can positively impact performance, mitigate conflicts and contributes to a trusting and transparent remote environment.   

Radical candor is a process to consider when delivering feedback to your team. Its approach combines directly challenging each team member while showing and telling them that you genuinely and deeply care for their welfare as a member of your remote team and as an individual. You must be assertive yet empathetic, to deliver feedback in a meaningful and impactful way, without diminishing trust and motivations.


3. Minimise team conflicts by holding meetings regularly.

With most distributed teams coming from different locations and time zones, it will always be challenging to get everyone together, even remotely. But regular meetings can help you reduce the opportunity for conflict. Virtual sessions can help you spot conflicts early before they become a problem. You can also use this opportunity to update your team members about the company’s successes and challenges and remind everyone of your team goals and the respective roles of your team members.

4. Provide the opportunity for team members to voice their concerns.

In one way or another, some of your team members might encounter problems or might have conflicts with your other team members. As a leader, you must create an opportunity for your direct reports to be able to express their concerns openly. 

Regular and consistent 1-1 meetings with a clear agenda and dedicated time to voice concerns is a great way to check in on an individual level. At scale, conducting surveys regularly, using retrospective activities provides teams with the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of their concerns and be able to share them to concerned parties.

An excellent method to apply when it comes to conducting surveys is the start-stop-continue retrospective. This simple and effective method can help your team members on their recent experiences and decide on what things they should change as they move forward.

No matter how big or small your team is, it is always essential to maintain open communication and set the expectations of mutual responsibility. Mutual responsibility is ensuring everyone takes ownership of speaking to you as a team leader when they are feeling uncomfortable, or they believe a particular conflict is arising. 

Likewise, you as a leader have this responsibility to speak with your direct reports should you experience the same. Managing your remote team always involve creating a healthy and open work environment for your team members. With a good workplace for them to work in, you’ll be able to motivate your team to perform better and minimise the opportunity for conflict.

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