Conflict Resolution in a Remote Setting

Working remotely has sprung up pretty rapidly around the world. With all of its benefits such as increased access to medical care with flexible hours, increased gender equality with greater access to child care opportunities, and an easier work-life balance, there are some challenges that need to be addressed. In a recent online survey conducted by AGL, a majority of remote workers and their managers have noted that miscommunication was the largest disadvantage of remote work.

Luckily, Andrea Eckhardt and Tobias Keith have broken down the conflicts that may arise while teleconferencing and the possible solutions for the problems in their article, Conflict and Conflict Mechanisms in Remote Collaboration via Videoconferencing. Below, I have chosen the most relevant for AGL and condensed them for your consumption.

Pre-occupation problem

Example: Sally doesn’t know how to turn on her microphone when it doesn’t come on automatically and Greg won’t respond unless spoken to directly.

Problem: Technology problems that prohibit work or participants refuse to participate.

Solution: Workshops for technology problem solving or incentives for vocal users.

Strict time constraint problem

Example: A client only has 30 minutes to hear a pitch, and one member of the team takes 14 minutes to introduce the team. Everyone is frustrated with the team member.

Problem: Strong pressure to perform with brevity and enforced results.

Solution: Give a detailed agenda ahead of time and instruct thorough preparation; ensure that there is a video-conference leader who focuses only on time management.

Attention Span problem

Example: In a virtual class, it is understood by most that you should mute your audio in case there is distracting background noise coming through your microphone. Jane is new to the class and didn’t mute her microphone. The noise is distracting.

Problem: Concentration is disturbed (either by one participant or all) or unspoken video conferencing etiquette is breached.

Solution: Attempt to redirect distracted participants using follow up questions and set up a defined set of rules for video conferencing.

Thin social pipeline problem

Example: John thinks that Robert is speaking with their supervisor without him present about their joint pitch so that he can get more speaking time. For that reason, John withholds information about the client.

Problem: Trust problem amongst team members that can interrupt or confuse meetings.

Solution: Have a warm up before the conference to allow conversation about the meeting; ensure that meetings between team members are occurring regularly to build a repertoire and more trust.

Post-communication isolation problem

Example: Isabelle joined Company X a few months ago, but she still feels like a complete outsider. Her colleagues are nice enough, but make no effort to include her. She feels like they sometimes exclude her purposefully by staying on the call longer (after she hangs up).

Problem: Feelings/perception of exclusion; feeling disjointed from the company.

Solution: Meetings should be consistent and should end with an inclusive activity such as an emotional checkup or a reflection of a recent event; managers should check up on employees frequently to emotionally and socially reflect.

Thank you for reading,


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