Working in a Hybrid team can be one of the best ways to operate. With some people working from a central HQ and others working from home or remotely, you can make the most of different time zones and have a really diverse and productive workforce.
However, when the inevitable work disagreements arise, they can be harder to solve with a Hybrid Team. We’re looking at why this is the case, and how businesses can manage conflict within a hybrid team.
Managing conflict within teams that are operating both virtually and physically can be difficult. There are several reasons for this:
You might say that conflict is inevitable in the workplace, but there is heightened risk of misunderstandings made via digital communication.
This is because humans are designed to communicate using various verbal and non-verbal cues. Body language and tonality are just as important as the words themselves. These essential aspects can be easily lost over the internet.
Even within a small team, there might be plenty of different work styles. Some people work quicker than others, and this has become more apparent with the recent work from home phenomenon.
Childcare and other domestic responsibilities are aspects that can change the flow of work between colleagues. There are often sensitive subjects and can lead to conflict.
Time difference can be amazingly beneficial for businesses looking to capitalise on the extra time you can win when you work with people from different countries.
However, when it comes to conflict and resolution, time difference can make patching things over hard. Some people simply won’t have the chance to connect via Zoom or phone call because their schedules don’t match up. This means that things can be left unsaid which can build frustration over the long term.
While a lot of people love working from home, when it’s caused by things like COVID-19 lockdowns where people may not have their ideal office set-up, there can be general frustration in the air.
When everyone’s fuse is slightly shorter than normal, conflict can arise more quickly. As a business leader it is important to make everyone aware that these feelings are normal, and that as a team we have to work together to get through these times.
Read More: How To Manage Remote Teams Globally
Managing a virtual team can be doubly difficult, as you are less likely to sense any impending conflict, unlike in an office. This issue extends to hiring new team members as well.
So, what tools can you use to avoid a virtual team falling into conflict?
This is the process of removing any presumptions about how the team operates. Developing some kind of team agreement helps you answer three questions:
Nailing these down will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and ensure that everyone understands how things should run.
Now that you have all agreed on how you are going to work, the team can trust each other better. Trust is especially vital within virtual teams.
There is much less you can do to casually check up on your colleagues, so building trust is important to successfully collaborate on a project.
Checking in regularly on your team will not only help build trust and communication streams, but reduce anxiety. The remote working world can generate anxiety, if a team member feels isolated and under pressure.
Try dropping in via private messages or video catch-ups to make sure that everyone is happy and on track.
Like we said, conflict is inevitable within groups of people. No matter how well you integrate new members of the team, at some point, you will have to resolve some dispute or other. Luckily, there are lots of ways to navigate these instances.
In the case of conflicts over tasks, it can help to restructure how your team is operating.
Slightly rejigging the team’s workflow to better complement the various work styles within the group can make everyone feel more productive.
A lot of tension arises when people are unsure of who is accountable for a task. So, try to start each new project with a set of clearly defined tasks and assign accountability early.
In the case of a dispute, it’s best practice to talk to everyone involved separately and then as a group. Virtual teams actually lend themselves well to this, as you can schedule calls with each person. Calls in person always yield better results in conflict situations than written messages.
When discussing the issue, try to guide the participant towards a mutually acceptable result. However, the most important thing is to listen. Let’s repeat that: listen. People mostly want their view heard. Remember to empathise, as working from home can be tricky, and is a new experience for most people.
Having conversations about conflict is useful, but you shouldn’t stop there. There are plenty of more dynamic activities that will build team spirit. The more that each member knows about their colleagues as a person, the easier it is for everyone to navigate how they communicate.
Conflict resolution games are processes that will increase communication as well as develop interpersonal understanding. There are also team building exercises that can keep virtual teams closer despite the geographical distance.