Did you know, 85% of employees at all levels experienced conflict to some degree?
This stat indicates that conflicts are inherent to a workplace. However, while reconciliations are easy in the in-office work setup, they can blow out of proportion in a hybrid workplace.
One major reason is the absence of in-person conversations, making it challenging to bring the distributed team members on the same page.
Additionally, differences in perspectives, working styles, or cultures, and difficulty in building trust and transparency, etc., can aggravate hybrid team conflicts. Furthermore, these conflicts can garner an inconducive work environment and affect an individual’s performance, lower work quality, and cause unplanned attritions.
To combat this, a good leader must implement their conflict resolution skills and resolve these disputes to maintain team synergy. This blog highlights the major challenges faced while resolving conflicts in a hybrid work environment and the strategies to overcome them.
But first, let’s understand:
1. What is conflict resolution?
Conflict resolution in a workplace is the process of resolving a conflict or discrepancy between two or more parties. While individuals may resolve their disputes mutually, it can often need a manager’s or team leader’s intervention based on their severity and intensity.
Effective conflict resolution entails determining the cause, eliminating it, and reaching a mutually acceptable and peaceful resolution. It also involves finding and implementing measures to prevent the same type of conflict from reoccurring in the future.
Now that it is clear what conflict resolution implies, let’s understand why it is an uphill task in a hybrid work setup.
2. Why is conflict resolution a challenge in a hybrid workspace?
One of the best ways to sustain team synergy and foster a positive work environment is by effectively handling differences, disagreements, and conflicts between individuals.
However, it becomes a daunting task in a hybrid workspace.
Here are the reasons why.
A. Ineffective communication and lack of real-time collaboration
Communication is a major concern in hybrid work setup. As the team members are distributed across different time zones, managers find it challenging to bring them on a common platform at the same time. Just implementing asynchronous communication channels cannot solve this purpose.
Moreover, often video calls (synchronous communication) can’t replicate in-person interactions due to the loss of conversational nuances. This difficulty in streamlining communication between individuals makes reconciliations arduous for the management.
B. Lack of trust and transparency
Trust and transparency are not the strongest suits of a hybrid work setup. That’s because when employees don’t get a chance to work in person with their coworkers, it leads to a gap in understanding different opinions, perspectives, or even working styles.
This breeding skepticism worsens the disputes and makes conflict resolution a challenge as both parties are unwilling to iron out their differences or understand each other’s stance.
C. Cultural and cross-generational differences
A hybrid workforce usually comprises a diverse workforce in terms of culture, nationalities, generations, and more. However, these differences lead to a shift in mindsets and perspectives.
When two cross-cultural or cross–generational employees are caught in a dispute, managers may not be able to find a middle ground and resolve it.
However, leaders can overcome these challenges with effective conflict resolution skills.
3. How to resolve conflicts in hybrid teams?
Although you can form a customized conflict resolution strategy for your firm, there are some common ways you can implement to address conflicts.
Enlisted below are some of the most effective ones,
A. Conduct one-on-one with both parties individually
While resolving conflicts, managers often skip to the resolution process and jump to conclusions without gathering the complete details or cause of the dispute. This absence of adequate information may render the meeting ineffective and fail the very purpose of conflict resolution with the parties involved.
Therefore, managers must make it a point to discuss the matter separately with each member involved in the disparity.
For this, you can have one-on-one video calls to listen to each side, understand their perspectives, analyze them, take a stance, and deduce ways to address the conflict and resolve the discrepancy. This step will help you get the whole picture of the situation, assess it from all angles, and determine its source objectively.
B. Use a communication tool to host an open-ended discussion
After separate meetings with individuals, you should bring the conflicting parties on a common platform to discuss issues. You can use any video conferencing tool as appropriate to schedule a video call and send an invite to the ones involved. A small introduction to brief everyone on the meeting’s main motive can help set the stage and prepare for the discussion that follows.
The meeting should be open-ended to allow disputing members to freely express their viewpoints without fear of oppression or hesitation. However, laying down ground rules is imperative to maintain decorum and ensure no one uses derogatory language. It also helps make sure that no one takes over the meeting and everyone gets a fair chance to voice their concerns.
C. Promote empathy and mutual understanding
In order to create a comfortable space for employees to share their side of the story, managers must exhibit empathy. Only then can an employee trust their leader and be transparent about their concerns. Further, it will help you understand the situation with an open mind, analyze the reason behind a person’s actions with clarity, and form an opinion on it.
Besides being empathetic yourself, it is equally vital for you to encourage and remind conflicting individuals to empathize with each other during the meeting. It will help them understand and accept the other side better, which will expedite conflict management and resolution.
D. Focus on the issue without getting personal
If the disputes go out of hand, managers may lose their calm and composure and end up making a personal remark on someone’s personality, even if it is unintentional. This will do more harm and make matters even worse. Managers must refrain from doing so and stay focused on the end goal. They should give their undivided attention to the issue at hand, maintain their cool, no matter how intense a conflict is.
Additionally, the same code of conduct should be followed by the conflicting parties. A warning should be issued to the person resorting to personal attacks, followed by a suitable disciplinary action if needed. It will help keep the flow of the meeting in the right direction and prevent any unwanted animosities and clashes, thereby speeding up conflict resolution.
E. Maintain a neutral tone without any biases
Knowingly or unknowingly, managers may end up favoring someone who they have worked closely with. However, the role of a mediator necessitates absolute impartiality and objectivity. Even if a manager prefers one particular employee to another, it shouldn’t reflect in their tone and demeanor while addressing conflicts and disputes.
They should consider everyone’s concerns, issues, and viewpoints without predispositions or prejudices. It will help ensure that no one feels undervalued, unheard, or left out and keep the feelings of hostility and resentment at bay. Moreover, it will help you seek the cooperation you need to brainstorm the solution, thus simplifying conflict resolution.
F. Reason with both the parties and encourage them to find a solution mutually
After listening to all the conflicting sides and gathering everyone’s input, managers should analyze their perspectives thoroughly. Then they should explain the rationale behind the actions, viewpoints to both the parties and convey their stance while citing the reason behind it.
After doing so, they can finally give some time to employees to come to a conclusion. By compiling their inputs, suggestions for the way forward, and adding your own inputs; you can encourage them to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution. This way, managers can facilitate finding a middle ground by not imposing their decision but encouraging the individuals to develop an understanding for each other.
G. Make a decision in case of constant disagreement
While a mediator is ideally supposed to listen to both sides and promote mutual agreement, it may not always work out. When disputes grow intense and parties turn too hostile to resolve the matter harmoniously, the manager should step in and take the matter into their hands.
It implies that they should analyze the situation thoroughly, consolidate all opinions and suggestions, and use their discretion to arrive at a solution. Besides, it is their responsibility to ensure that all the parties involved respect and follow the decision. In addition, the manager can also suggest tips to avoid such confrontations in the future.
4. Tips to minimize conflicts
Ronald Reagan, the former US President, says,
“Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
It is true that no workplace is absolutely conflict-free. However, how effectively you handle them determines your leadership skills in an organization.
While the above-discussed strategies can help you resolve disputes once they occur, you should also strive to prevent them in the first place.
Enlisted below are certain tips that you can follow to minimize workplace conflicts.
- Set clear expectations and emphasize individual roles and responsibilities to prevent role ambiguities.
- Ensure equal growth opportunities for both in-office and remote workers to make them feel equally valued and prevent unhealthy competition.
- Pair team members with similar working styles together to achieve better synchronization.
- Promote mutual trust and transparency among team members.
- Acknowledge, celebrate, and reward milestones collectively to make everyone feel recognized and an integral part of the organization.
- Leverage the right tools and technology to bring team members on the same page and maintain transparency.
- Host timely virtual team-building sessions and watercooler conversations to strengthen team bonds.
- Prioritize conducting emotional and diversity intelligence training to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity (DE, &I) in a hybrid work environment.
5. The Glossary
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