conflict management in hybrid teams

How to approach conflict management in hybrid teams

Where there’s a workplace, there is inevitably going to be situations where conflict arises. In hybrid teams, operating in a mix of remote work and office-based work, conflict management can be a more challenging exercise. Whether you’ve identified conflict brewing amongst your team or would like to get ahead of it as you transition into working in hybrid teams, you’ve come to the right place.

After comparing and contrasting the results of our 2020 and 2021 State of Remote Work reports, we noticed a significant uptick in ‘managing conflict’ being listed as one of the core challenges in a hybrid work environment. With this in mind, we’ve decided it was about time we share some of our best conflict management tips for hybrid teams. Let’s jump right into it.


Conflict management in hybrid teams.


Clarify your hybrid team communication channels

Having a clear understanding of the appropriate communication channels for workplace discussion, project-based discussion, feedback, and task management can go a long way in helping your team avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and ensuing conflict. In the past we’ve explained the SOCS framework that we teach in our Virtual Leaders program to help leaders communicate to their teams the role each communication channel plays in the overall workplace tech mix. If you’re yet to read that article, open it up in a separate tab to read after this one, it’s a must-read.


Set the expectations early on

With a lot of the communication between hybrid teams taking place over digital platforms in the form of back-and-forth text, it is easy to see how disagreements or differences in opinion could escalate into full-blown interpersonal conflict. Add to that the lack of body language cues and vocal tone changes that aid us greatly in understanding the true meaning behind our colleague’s words and…well… conflict is bound to arise.

As a leader of a hybrid team, it’s important that you set expectations early on with your people about how best to approach these kinds of situations. For example, some workplaces find it useful to set a standard that after x many messages a conversation needs to go from text-based to a video call. Encouraging the use of this medium across your team, especially when particularly challenging topics are being discussed can aid in reducing misunderstandings and ultimately improve the communication between your people. All that’s to say that a large portion of conflict management in hybrid teams can be handled early on in the piece simply by empowering your people to have a ‘face-to-face’ conversation via video call as soon as an inkling of conflict arises.


Encourage open conversation over assumptions 

When working amongst the many moving parts of a hybrid team dynamic it can be tempting for your people to lean on assumptions rather than picking up the phone to clarify things with fellow colleagues or even with you, their leader. This increased reliance and acceptance of making assumptions and running with them can have some less-than-ideal impacts – you’ve been there before, right? From mistakes to time spent taking a project in the wrong direction, assumptions can lead the best hybrid teams into a world of conflict. Then the blame game begins and well, you know the rest.

This is why we always encourage hybrid teams and hybrid team leaders to go above and beyond to communicate clearly, clarify points throughout discussions, and avoid assumptions. Assumptions are a particularly pesky thing that can turn up in hybrid teams and cause conflict. For example, assumptions may come to mind after sending a team member a message and not hearing back for a few hours. Generosity of assumption here (assuming the best of the other person) and taking the initiative to use a more urgent communication method if warranted (i.e. phone call) are critical to maintaining strong working relationships and mitigating potential conflict in hybrid work scenarios.


Get your people to brush up on their tough stuff skills

If you really want to see your hybrid team performing a high level, delivering constructive and valuable feedback to one another whilst also being able to mitigate conflict with relative autonomy, you’ve got to support them in building up that skillset.

If you are up for a full-fledged rollout of a psychology-based, highly impactful learning program then take a look at our Dealing with the Tough Stuff program. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something you can get started with straight away, we’ve got the next best thing for you. Brush up on your tough stuff skills with a copy of our best-selling book, Dealing with the Tough Stuff.


Now that you’ve made your way to the end of this here article, we hope you’re feeling a little more confident in preparing for and approaching conflict management with your hybrid teams. If you’re up for more, take a look at our guide to Asynchronous vs Synchronous communication in hybrid teams.