Workplace conflict is an all too common experience. A study by CPP Global showed that 85% of employees experience conflict, most of them spending 2.8 hours per week dealing with it. With the rise of remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many team leaders have faced unprecedented situations, including new forms of conflict resolution. For those who haven’t led remote teams before, handling conflict can seem like a completely new experience.
When working from home, you don’t have an opportunity to read body language between team members or overhear conversations and gauge frustrations. The same experience is true for all remote employees. While negative cues like eye rolls and harsh tones are often missed in emails or messages, positive cues are as well. This makes it easy for tension to build over small misunderstandings and the lack of casual conversation within remote teams can prevent it from being resolved.
Leaders have to be more intentional about asking for honest feedback and having open conversations with their team to identify interpersonal problems. Otherwise, growing tensions within the team may lead to a slow in productivity or an increase in employee turnover.
One of the most effective ways to address conflict on your team is by utilizing personality insights to ensure you’re approaching conflict with others in an empathetic way. In other words, understanding personality can help you communicate appropriately so you can resolve conflict and prevent further misunderstanding.
Confident, decisive D-types are usually direct and dominant when facing conflict. They share their thoughts openly and tend to expect others to do the same. While working remotely, they may have a more difficult time recognizing when other people are upset, especially via email. Since they are typically candid themselves, others’ frustrations, if expressed indirectly, may seem like a normal, blunt comment, rather than an expression of a deeper issue.
To avoid this confusion when addressing conflict with D-type, focus on getting right to the point. Don’t spend too much energy trying to remain sensitive to their emotions; they’d rather you be upfront and clear about the problem at hand so it can be discussed and resolved. Encourage them to take responsibility and stand your ground on issues, but give them a chance to arrive at a solution on their own.
They are unlikely to have a preference for how conflict is discussed (e.g. through email, video call, etc.) as long as it is resolved efficiently.
If you’re resolving conflict with D-types, try using phrases like:
Open-minded, idealistic I-types prefer to work through problems in a calm, light-hearted manner. They may conceal their real thoughts to move on from the conflict quickly and avoid negative feelings. In remote situations, they’re likely to overlook negativity from others and allow tension to build without realizing it. Because they don’t tend to focus on their frustrations, they may forget to think about others’ frustrations.
When addressing an issue with I-types, it’s essential to remain upbeat and positive; instead of criticizing their actions, try to relate to them emotionally and ask them for ideas on improving the situation. Use humor to diffuse tension and pay attention to their emotional cues, rather than focusing purely on the logic of the situation.
It also makes a difference where you address the problem. They are likely to prefer phone calls and video chats so they are able to pick up on social cues and connect more easily.
If you’re resolving conflict with I-types, try using phrases like:
Empathetic, understanding S-types tend to have a difficult time addressing interpersonal problems. Because they focus on maintaining positive, personal relationships with others, they tend to worry more about offending or upsetting others. In remote situations, they may have an even harder time going out of their way to bring up difficult situations with coworkers. They might also read into someone’s tone in an email or message more than other personalities, which could cause them to feel insecure or frustrated.
To get the most out of resolving conflict with S-types, it’s crucial that you focus on communicating your perspective in a gentle, reassuring way. Remember to ask S-types questions to fully understand their point-of-view persistently. Use a level-headed approach and demonstrate compassion for their views, but don’t allow major problems to go unspoken.
Because they generally appreciate interpersonal connection, it’s best to have this discussion over a video-call, when remote, to avoid any chance of misunderstanding.
If you’re resolving conflict with an S-type, try using phrases like:
Introverted, logical C-types usually prefer to work through conflict efficiently and rationally. They like to keep emotions out of the conversation as much as possible and will likely want to have specific evidence to back up any claims. Because they are reserved, their messages may seem short or curt to their remote team. They won’t generally use emotional language or emojis in their messages and may not always respond, which may lead other team members to draw the wrong conclusions and grow frustrated.
It’s important to focus on being level-headed and thorough when addressing conflict with C-types, avoiding dramatizations and emotional expressions. Keep in mind that a resolution is complete with C-types when the problem is solved, not when both parties feel more comfortable within their relationship. Make sure to clearly explain what you want out of the situation, avoiding unrealistic expectations or vague, uncommunicated wishes.
They may appreciate working our conflict through email or messaging, when appropriate, since they generally prefer written communication with coworkers.
If you’re resolving conflict with a C-type, try using phrases like:
Prevent conflict by having open conversations with your team on a regular basis and allowing them to openly express any frustration. Show empathy, maybe even more than you would in a typical office setting, and encourage everyone to connect and get to know each other despite being remote.
By considering how people on your team like to approach conflict, you can help ensure that people on your team feel comfortable working through issues, rather than giving them space and time to grow into something bigger.