Lilian Mendoza Nov 24, 2020 6 min read

How to Deal with Remote Conflict at Work

Communication is an essential component of every successful organization. Having open communication channels allow you to understand core problems that could affect work, and deal with them firmly.

However, miscommunication between your team can give way to conflicts. Since the pandemic, employees have been subjected to a barrage of stress triggers from every direction. As people adjust to the ‘new normal,’ they are still learning to cope with remote communication.

While remote conflicts are not a new phenomenon, they have increased drastically as the world has shifted to remote working culture.

Before COVID-19 hit, only 3.4% of the US workforce was working remotely. However, that increased exponentially as virtually all workplaces were closed. That is why businesses are experiencing an increased number of remote conflicts.

As more and more companies see the benefits of remote work, more people will have to learn how to deal with the resulting conflict.

Read on to understand how to avoid remote conflict better:

How Does Remote Conflict at Work Occurs?

Miscommunication is one of the biggest culprits of remote conflict. And your consumers see it too - 96% of people reveal that businesses they deal with can improve their communication.

Here are some potential causes of remote conflict:

Time Zone Difference

On some occasions, there is a cross-border cooperation between teams. This can happen if:

  • Employees are sent back due to COVID-19
  • They were initially hired as out-station employees
  • They are traveling on-site or for specific work-related responsibilities

This can lead to:

  • Conflicting deadlines
  • Clashing personal schedules
  • Late responses to queries can lead to misunderstandings
Lack of In-Person Communication

Business communication software has made it easy for large teams to cooperate on projects remotely; however, they don’t consider the importance of tone, context, and body language.

Textual communication lacks all three of those elements and gives way to misunderstandings. In-person conversations also allow for instant problem-solving, whereas remote work may lead to delayed responses.

This delay in communication can also reflect in your work, delaying deadlines, and piling up pressure. It is clear to see why a conflict can arise from such a situation.

Extraneous Variables

When working remotely, employees get to choose their work environment; and when that environment is their home, there are bound to be plenty of uncontrolled distractions.

In 2020, these distractions also come in the shape of pandemic-related stress.

Anything that affects productivity, creates stress, or causes remote chaos may eventually lead to conflict.

3 Tips on How to Deal with Remote Conflict at Work

Avoiding remote conflict isn’t much different from avoiding real conflict; it requires patience, empathy, and responsible leadership.

Here are some tips on how to deal with remote work:

Call your collaborators

Over-reliance on conventional communication software and email compels employees to restrict themselves to textual conversations, leading to contextual confusion.

To understand your colleagues better, make it a habit to call the other collaborators and discuss the problem as if in person. Doing so will help abate misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Incorporate Playfulness

Urge employees to create a safe-word or an emoji for specific situations. Using an agreed-upon safe-word to express discontent or confusion will automatically take the edge off of the problem.

Allowing employees to address pressing issues in a light-hearted and comical way will bring attention to a pressing issue and help employees take frustration in their stride.

Provide Constant Feedback

Silence is arguably the biggest cause of misunderstanding in the workplace. When an employee does not receive positive feedback on their work, they automatically assume the worst. This problem is further amplified when the work is remote.

To prevent this from happening, use your preferred modes of communication to provide hourly, weekly, and monthly feedback, and take this opportunity to discuss anything that might be bothering your team.

Remote working is here to stay! Organizations looking to succeed and grow in this evolved working landscape must embrace the new challenges it brings – included remote conflicts.

Adapting to a remote working landscape and establishing clear communication guidelines can go a long way in helping you avoid internal communication issues.

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Lilian Mendoza

Customer Success Manager & Talent Acquisition Manager at Definity First. Working every day to make sure we deliver the best for our clients.