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Employee Experience

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Remote and Hybrid Teams

One Minute Takeaway

  • Conflict can be detrimental to productivity and divide teams
  • Creating a safe place for employees to voice their concerns anonymously can be a great conflict resolution strategy
  • Creating a healthy workplace culture can help you take a proactive approach to conflict.

Working remotely or in a hybrid situation certainly has its benefits, but it won’t save anyone from friction at work.

While there’s evidence to suggest that the 27 million Americans who work remote are happier or more productive (Great Place to Work); recent research found that remote workers are nearly 41% more likely to report feeling stressed (ILO).

In fact, an added layer of technology, time zone challenges, and lack of inclusion can all add to the perfect storm for miscommunication and team conflict. Fortunately, we’ve got a few ideas for helping you to navigate those tensions at work.

What causes conflicts for hybrid teams at work?

Conflict at work is inevitable, and it doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. In the best cases, disagreements can lead to innovation, but in the worst cases they can be detrimental to productivity and divide teams. When it comes to workplaces with remote employees and in-person employees, causes of employee conflict can vary.

Naturally, remote employees have the challenge of external stressors in addition to feeling isolated and disconnected from their team, which can lead to communication problems. Additionally, employees who show up in person might have an advantage of sharing successes with colleagues during office small talk leading to an increased sense of visibility that remote workers don’t enjoy.

Now that you know what causes conflict, you’re probably wondering what can help resolve it. However, let’s back up a few steps because having a system in place for conflict resolution is only half the battle.

Creating a healthy workplace culture can help you take a proactive approach to conflict instead of a reactive one.

How Does Company Culture Help Teams Resolve Conflict?

Paycor was curious to better understand how the pandemic (and its push to remote work) affected company culture. So, we asked an open-ended question: “In a couple of words, how did the pandemic make your company culture stronger or weaker?” 2,000 people responded with more than 30,000 words.

A variety of themes emerged, but three are relevant to this discussion: trust, communication, and leadership.

Trust is the primary driver of culture. Workers want to trust that leaders are acting in their best interests, not just the interests of the business. Employers want to trust that workers won’t abuse increased flexibility.

Communication is the primary driver of trust. Leaders who prioritized communication and a higher degree of transparency than in pre-pandemic times fared better than ones that didn’t.

Leadership: Managers have to be trained on how to lead teams, especially remote ones. Whether you’re working side by side in a physical location, working remotely, or some combination of both, organizations that trained leaders to adapt to changing team dynamics fared better than ones that didn’t.

Need help training leaders: Paycor has a resource designed just for leaders called The COR Leadership Framework.

If these three things aren’t at the foundation of your company culture, you’re bound to have some issues arise. And, when conflict at work is unavoidable, you’ll have to have conflict resolution strategies readily available that will work for everyone involved. Here are a few that can help.

5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Remote and Hybrid Teams

Initiate Kick-off Meetings

A kick-off meeting is a good way to manage people who work remotely and who also work in person. This way, everyone will be on the same page and know what is expected of them. 

During the meeting, team members are introduced, and roles/responsibilities are made clear; goals are set, deadlines and milestones are shared and a communication method (that works for everyone) is established.

Having consistent meetings help keep everyone on track and held accountable. Establishing ground rules and expectations will also help keep team members on task and motivated.

Give Space to Express Concerns

Creating a safe place for employees to voice their concerns in a calm, and perhaps even anonymous manner can be a great conflict resolution strategy. It allows for the option of resolving a team conflict privately and without involving other employees or management. 

Paycor Pulse is a great way to frequently and anonymously give employees a space to share how they feel at work. Discover how Paycor Pulse could work for your team.

Use Casual Communication to Avoid Awkwardness

Remote and hybrid working environments have made it difficult to carry out conversations in the usual way. But the use of chat or messaging technology can help to facilitate communication between your remote or hybrid team, enabling them to discuss issues more openly and effectively. Additionally, remote chat technology can help to build relationships between remote workers, even if they are located in different regions.

Team-up Strategically 

It’s often difficult to build trust and camaraderie with others in the same office which is why teaming up strategically can be especially important for your remote team, hybrid employees, and onsite employees. You want to collaborate and pool resources to create a healthy environment. Employees may feel more comfortable reaching out to a colleague they’ve worked with before for help resolving a conflict. 

Focus on the Problem, Not the Person

Focusing on the problem instead of the person leads to a resolution that benefits both parties involved without damaging relationships or resorting to retaliation. When an employee is in conflict with a co-worker, sometimes leaders approach the situation by addressing the person instead of the problem. But, when an issue is framed as a personal conflict, both employees are likely to become defensive and less likely to be receptive to resolving the problem. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to handling disputes, but fortunately, there are many creative remote and hybrid conflict resolution strategies that can help you resolve conflicts more efficiently.  

How to Encourage Healthy Conflict

We mentioned how conflict or disagreements can sometimes lead to innovative ideas; however, getting there is not always so easy. But, by understanding the root causes of disagreements and seeking common ground, you can maintain healthy relationships despite the occasional conflict. It’s important to remember that there are two sides to every story, and both remote employees and in-person employees need to know that they are heard. Here are a few ways you can do this:

Set Clear Ground Rules Beforehand

When hybrid employees work from different locations, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is on the same page and it becomes easy for misunderstandings to lead to conflict. 

You’ll thank yourself for setting ground rules beforehand. Some things you may want to consider include expectations for communication, working hours, and deadlines. 

Create an Atmosphere of Trust

If people don’t trust one another, they’re likely to avoid conflict altogether or resort to back-channel tactics like gossiping or sabotage. By building trust, you create an environment where open communication is the norm, and that’s essential for resolving conflicts effectively.

Welcome Diverse Ideas

Diverse ideas help to ensure that all possible solutions are considered, and that the best possible outcome is reached. You can do this with a virtual whiteboard option or brainstorming tool. Diversity of thought can also help prevent groupthink, where everyone in the group shares the same opinion, which can lead to bad decisions. A variety of perspectives increase the chance that the best solution will be found.

How Paycor Helps

The key to avoiding or resolving conflicts in a hybrid working environment is communication, which is why it’s helpful for employees to have opportunities to be open and honest with each other about their expectations and needs, and compromise where necessary.

Finally, holding regular check-ins with each employee to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that they feel comfortable raising any issues they may have will help keep remote conflicts from escalating. Paycor makes this easy with helpful Talent Development one-on-one tools. Our software is ideal for in-person, remote and hybrid workplaces to create a culture of feedback year-round so that leaders don’t have to wait to understand, recognize, prevent, and manage conflicts.