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    Jun 05, 2023    |   Psychometrics Canada

Conflict in the Remote Working World

man working remotely dealing with conflict

Written by Justin M. Deonarine, I/O Psychologist 

Read time: 3 minutes  

As remote work becomes more prevalent, it’s important to understand how conflict dynamics have shifted in virtual teams. In this article, we delve into the impact of remote work on assertiveness, communication barriers, and conflict avoidance in virtual environments.

Virtual teams may experience conflict differently than when they were together in the office. In order to examine how conflict has changed since the transition to virtual environments, we examined data from 14,070 individuals in March 2023. Similar to the challenges found during times of uncertainty, approaches to conflict that require more assertiveness are harnessed less frequently.

While uncertainty brings loss of assertiveness due to fear of the unknown, a virtual environment also makes it harder to be assertive.

  • Written communication (such as e-mail and instant messaging) lacks nuance and tone. As a result of the increased use of this type of communication, individuals may be more hesitant to be assertive, in fear that it may be seen as aggressive or angry.
  • Video calls also introduce unique challenges for smooth communication. In person, we can use visual and auditory cues to help determine when we can smoothly introduce our thoughts when someone else is finished contributing theirs. In a video call, we can’t read all of these visual cues (such as body language), and the small audio delay is enough that we receive these signals too late. As a result, video chat can make debating and discussion awkward for some to engage in.
  • Remote employees find it easier to avoid conflict entirely, as they are not in a situation where they are required to engage. This could cause conflict to fester over time. Alternatively, some may simply become more cooperative in order to keep the benefits of working from home, despite growing resentment towards the observed conflict.

How can you overcome conflict in a remote world? The Society for Human Resource Management offers some considerations:

  • Good communication practices can help to prevent conflict, and establish the trust required within the team to effectively address conflict when it occurs.
  • We can’t just walk over to someone else’s office to clarify something that might be a source of conflict, so we need to be proactive about having conversations when issues arise. Rather than letting them fester, address challenges directly.
  • It may feel redundant, but what used to be acceptable levels of communication now requires more effort. Some have coined the term “overcommunicate”, but it’s really more about being purposeful about maintaining relationships.

Navigating conflict in the remote world presents unique challenges that require proactive and intentional strategies. By recognizing the impact of remote work on assertiveness, communication barriers, and conflict avoidance, organizations can develop effective conflict management practices. Emphasizing open communication, addressing challenges directly, and fostering trust within remote teams are key steps toward preventing conflict from becoming a challenge, as well as and resolving conflict when it arises.

Interested in leveraging the power of personality in remote conflict resolution? Discover the insights and strategies offered by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) assessment to enhance communication, understanding, and collaboration within your remote team. Uncover the unique personality preferences of team members and learn how to navigate conflicts based on their individual traits. Contact us today to explore how the MBTI assessment can transform your approach to conflict resolution and cultivate a positive and productive remote work environment.

Filed under: Conflict