16 July 2021

Managing Conflicts during Remote Working


In our professional career, we meet different kinds of people who have different preferences, attitudes, and ways of thinking. With such differences, conflict is bound to happen. Although conflict is more likely to happen when we meet people, conflict also happens when we work separately from home. As a matter of fact, MyPerfectResume found that workplace conflict has been experienced by 80% of remote professionals, and 2 out of 3 workers have been in a conflict with their colleagues. What are these workplace conflicts and how do we manage them?

Remote Working Gets Us All Worked Up

While there are many examples of conflicts, Atlas Staffing has categorized work-related conflicts into 6 types. The first is task-based conflicts, where there’s interdependency on task completion. There’s also leadership conflict, which might happen more frequently in companies with less clear structure. Different personality and creative differences can also be two sources of conflicts. The more severe type of conflict would be discrimination, where a group of workers is treated differently because of their race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, or even their age.

These work problems used to be found quite easily in the offline world, but unfortunately, they are more prone to happen during online meetings. According to a new research from Stanford, video conferencing actually makes it more likely for conflict to occur since it psychologically triggers our “fight or flight” reflex. Simply put, we’re more on edge because of Zoom meetings. If workplace conflict is inevitable and video calls are just making it worse, team leaders must find good strategies to handle conflicts among coworkers during the age of remote working.

How to Manage Remote Working Conflicts

Fortunately, managing conflicts during remote working is doable, as long as team leaders take the right actions to mitigate and resolve them. Since most conflicts arise from communication (if not Wi-fi connection) problems, the first and most important thing to do in managing remote working conflict is to provide a space for expression. Lend an ear by actively listening to concerns and differing opinions from other team members. Maybe they have great insights that can benefit the project. Normalize saying “maybe you’re right” and “hey, that’s a great idea.”

Second of all, never underestimate conflict. Conflict takes time, and lost time means lost productivity. The time we spend for dealing with conflicts and resolving them would be more useful if we used it for something productive. When translated to company productivity in terms of revenue, conflicts actually cause major loss. CPP Inc. found that in 2008, the U.S. workplace lost roughly $360 billion due to conflict. Such staggering amount should make managers and leaders take this issue seriously and find ways to minimize the number of work-related conflicts.

Third, some reflection could be helpful. In a team, both leaders and members can take a moment to reflect on how they’ve been communicating with each other all this time. Maybe we’ve been too harsh in criticizing our coworkers. Maybe we haven’t given enough appreciation. And maybe we can the way we express ourselves and treat others, as it could really make a difference. Gather the team to talk about these issues and make a positive commitment to create a more solid team where remote working interactions can be done in a healthier way. 

Last but not least, be wary of the signs. Knowing the signs can help us handle and resolve conflicts ASAP. Microaggression and sarcastic remarks could seem to be little things we can dismiss, but they could end up becoming toxic. Leaders should have a reasonable mind to stop negative remarks when it’s too much. On other occasions, some team members seem to be always at each other’s throats. When this happens, leaders can set an example by mediating the opposite sides and turning the conflicting ideas into something that benefits everyone.

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