In this blog post, we will discuss the main types of conflict and why is conflict management important.  We will also provide several virtual conflict resolution activities to apply when you’re out of ideas about what to do next.

Be fearless and bold in the face of conflict.

As long as you recognize the reasons for a conflict occurring on your team, the solution becomes obvious.

A well-oiled, high-performing team is built with clear tasks and roles, supportive relationships, solid process workflows, value-based leadership, and a clear business structure.

How to Manage Conflict in Virtual Teams

Not every conflict is your enemy.

Problems with conflicts usually arise when you’re clueless about underlying issues, cannot deal with the emotional tension, and fail to recognize the conflicts which require your intervention. 

Emotional tension is a state of stress or discomfort that arises from unresolved emotions or conflicts. The cause for tension can be a personal issue, a power struggle, a resource shortage, or disagreements over goals, values, or beliefs. 

Emotional tension can manifest itself in many ways, such as anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness, or fear. It can also lead to negative behaviors such as avoidance, aggression, or passive-aggressiveness. 

Tension can be particularly challenging in the workplace as it can negatively impact the productivity, communication, and overall well-being of employees and teams.

It is important to recognize the source of the tension and deal with it appropriately.  Depending on what caused tension, your workplace can foster functional conflicts that are ultimately beneficial for the organization.

Watch the video below to learn more about the root case of conflict and stress:

Why Functional Conflict is Your Friend

Functional (constructive) conflict arises when team members have different ideas, perspectives, or goals and they express them openly to find the best solution or decision. Functional conflict can be related to tasks, goals, or strategy. It is characterized by:

  • Open and honest communication
  • Active listening
  • Focus on finding solutions to problems
  • Increased workplace creativity 
  • Improved decision-making
  • Enhanced team performance.

Functional conflict is different from intrapersonal or interpersonal conflict which can be destructive and counterproductive to teamwork. 

Functional (constructive) conflict is a type of conflict that is beneficial for a team or organization. It helps to surface issues and problems that might otherwise be overlooked. When team members feel comfortable raising concerns, the team can make better decisions, work more efficiently and be more productive.

Main Types of Conflict

The can-do approach to managing conflict on virtual teams is based on understanding the main cause of conflict, which basically comes down to the following five:

  • Task conflict: Disagreements over the substance of the work, such as goals, roles, and procedures.
  • Relationship conflict: Interpersonal difficulties, such as personality clashes or communication problems.
  • Process conflict: Disagreements over how work should be done, such as decision-making procedures or resource allocation.
  • Value conflict: Differences in personal or organizational values, such as ethical or cultural differences.
  • Structural conflict: Issues with the design or organization of the workplace, such as inadequate resources or poor communication channels.

The direct route to solving team conflict without too much harmful stress and reduced productivity includes strategies based on task and role clarity, supportive relationships, solid process workflows, leading by shared values, and creating a clear business structure.


build a virtual team stress-free

 

Benefits of Conflict Management 

Why is conflict management important?

  • Better decision-making: Conflict can lead to better decision-making by encouraging team members to share their ideas, perspectives, and concerns. When team members feel comfortable raising concerns, the team can make better decisions and work more efficiently.
  • Enhancing creativity: Conflict can lead to increased creativity by encouraging team members to think outside the box and consider new and different ideas.
  • Improving relationships: Conflict management can improve relationships by fostering an environment of trust and respect, where team members feel comfortable raising concerns and expressing their ideas.
  • Achieving goals: Conflict management can help teams achieve their goals by keeping them focused on the task at hand and avoiding distractions.
  • Increasing productivity: Conflict management can lead to increased productivity by addressing issues and problems that might otherwise be overlooked.
  • Improving communication: Conflict management can improve communication by encouraging team members to actively listen to each other and to understand different perspectives.
  • Reducing stress: Conflict management can reduce stress by addressing issues and problems early on before they escalate and cause more harm.
  • Promoting teamwork: Conflict management can promote teamwork by encouraging team members to work together to find solutions to problems.
  • Enhancing problem-solving skills: Conflict management can enhance problem-solving skills by encouraging team members to think critically and creatively.
  • Fostering an environment of trust and respect: Conflict management can foster an environment of trust and respect where team members feel comfortable raising concerns and expressing their ideas.

The following examples of conflict resolution activities can help you break new ground if you’ve come across a cliffhanger issue.

How to Manage Conflict in Virtual Teams (10 Activities)

When you decide to intervene in a conflict, encourage team members to practice the following virtual team conflict resolution activities: 

Role-playing 

Take on different roles to practice resolving conflicts in a simulated environment.

Brainstorming 

Share their ideas and perspectives on a specific issue or problem, and work together to find solutions.

Mediation 

Use a neutral third party, such as a mediator or a human resources representative, to facilitate communication and help the team members find a resolution to their conflicts.

Team-building activities 

Engage in virtual team-building activities, such as virtual games or quizzes, to promote teamwork and build relationships.

Feedback sessions

Provide feedback on their experiences and share their thoughts on how to improve communication and resolve conflicts.

Workshops or training

Provide virtual workshops or training on conflict resolution, communication, and team-building to help team members develop the necessary skills to effectively resolve conflicts.

One-on-one meetings

Schedule one-on-one meetings with each other to discuss specific issues or concerns and find solutions.

Anonymous feedback

Provide a platform for team members to provide anonymous feedback, this can help to surface issues or concerns that might not be raised otherwise.

Simulations

Use virtual simulations to practice different scenarios and learn how to respond in a conflict situation.

Virtual Mind Mapping 

Use mind mapping software to visually organize their thoughts, ideas and solutions to the conflicts.


The direct route to solving team conflict without too much harmful stress and reduced productivity includes strategies based on task and role clarity, supportive relationships, solid process workflows, leading by shared values, and creating a clear business structure.
We have a complete blueprint to do that you can download below for free:


build a virtual team stress-free


What are the most common types of conflict?
  • Interpersonal conflict occurs between individuals or groups of people.
  • Intrapersonal conflict occurs within an individual.
  • Organizational conflict occurs within organizations or between organizations.

How to resolve a conflict between employees?

How to resolve a conflict between employees?

  1. Open communication: Encourage team members to express their opinions and concerns in a respectful and non-threatening manner.
  2. Identify the underlying issues: Try to understand the root causes of the conflict and address them directly.
  3. Active listening: Encourage team members to actively listen to each other and to try to understand different perspectives.
  4. Stay focused on the task at hand: Keep the team focused on the task or goal and avoid getting sidetracked by personal issues.
  5. Collaboration: Encourage team members to work together to find solutions to the conflict.
  6. Seek outside help: If the conflict cannot be resolved within the team, seek assistance from a neutral third party, such as a mediator or a manager.
  7. Follow up and review: After the conflict is resolved, follow up with the team to ensure that the issue is not recurring and to review what was learned from the experience.
  8. Develop a conflict resolution plan: Create a plan that clearly outlines the steps to be taken when conflicts occur in the team.
  9. Lead by example: As a leader, model the appropriate behavior and communication style that you want to see in your team.
  10. Encourage teamwork: Foster an environment of trust and respect where team members can rely on each other and work together.

 

How can a project manager support and encourage functional conflict?
  1. Encourage diversity in the team, in terms of skills, experience, and background. This can lead to more diverse perspectives and ideas, which can lead to functional conflict.
  2. Encourage team members to engage in healthy debates and discussions, as they can lead to new ideas and solutions.
  3. Foster an environment of trust and respect where team members feel comfortable raising concerns and expressing their ideas.

 

 

 

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