May 18, 2023
HR & Hiring

How to Deal with Remote Workplace Conflict

Visualize your typical remote workday: You log in to your virtual workspace, ready to tackle the day's tasks, only to find a whirlwind of group chats and emails filled with hostility, miscommunication, and tension. This remote workplace conflict doesn't just disrupt your day—it dampens productivity, fuels stress and impact job satisfaction. You may feel powerless, frustrated, and confused about handling conflict at work, especially in a virtual setting.

Now imagine a different scenario: You log in and find a sense of unity and cooperation instead of hostility. Communication is effective, disagreements are handled swiftly and respectfully, and conflicts are resolved efficiently, even in the remote workspace. This isn't a utopian dream—it's achievable with effective conflict resolution strategies in the remote work setting.

Before Vs. After

Understand the Source of Conflict: A Deep Dive

The first step in the journey to effective conflict resolution in a remote setting is identifying the roots of conflict. This process can be more complex in a virtual environment due to the absence of face-to-face interactions, physical cues, and the social aspects of a traditional workplace. However, it certainly is manageable. Let's delve deeper into the familiar sources of remote workplace conflict and why they're pivotal in shaping conflict resolution strategies.


Miscommunication is a prime source of conflict, particularly in remote settings. Misunderstandings can escalate into conflicts quickly due to technical glitches, delayed responses, or the lack of non-verbal cues. For instance, a simple instruction can be misconstrued if communicated clearly, leading to clarity, mistakes, and conflict.

Understanding that miscommunication can fuel conflict is crucial as it informs the need for clear, concise, and effective communication strategies. This could include setting communication guidelines, using reliable tools, and encouraging active listening and feedback.

Lack of Clarity

In a remote work environment, a lack of clarity can become a breeding ground for conflict. This can range from unclear roles and responsibilities to ambiguous project instructions or expectations. When employees need clarification about what's expected of them, it can lead to frustration, errors, and disagreements.

Recognizing this source of conflict emphasizes the need for clear expectations and instructions in remote teams. Regular check-ins, detailed project briefs, and clarity in roles and responsibilities can be effective strategies to combat this issue.

Differences in Work Styles

Every individual has a unique work style. Some might be early birds, while others are night owls; some might prefer a structured approach, while others may thrive flexibly. In a traditional office, these differences can be managed more easily. However, in a remote setting, these contrasting work styles can lead to conflicts, mainly affecting collaboration or meeting deadlines.

Identifying work style differences as a source of conflict highlights the importance of fostering a culture of understanding and flexibility. Team members should be encouraged to discuss their work styles, find common ground, and build mutually agreeable working arrangements.

Remote teams can develop tailored conflict resolution strategies by recognizing these roots of conflict. Not only does this help resolve conflicts when they arise, but it also aids in preventing potential conflicts, paving the way for a harmonious and productive remote work environment.

The 7 Steps of Conflict Resolution in Remote Teams

Resolving conflicts in a remote setting requires a systematic approach. With some adaptations for remote teams, the '7 steps of conflict resolution' method can provide a robust framework to manage and resolve disputes effectively. Here's a deeper dive into these steps:

1. Defining the Problem

The first step in conflict resolution involves accurately defining the problem. In remote teams, this may require a virtual meeting where the parties involved can express their viewpoints. Establishing a respectful and open environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspective is essential. Document the problem in clear, objective terms, ensuring all involved parties agree with the description of the conflict.

2. Understanding the Interests of Everyone Involved

Every individual involved in the conflict will have their interests and needs. Understanding these is crucial to finding a resolution that satisfies everyone. You should facilitate individual or group conversations to uncover these interests. This could be through private chat, email, or video calls in a remote setting. Patience and active listening are essential in this step.

3. Brainstorming Potential Solutions

Once you understand the problem and the parties' interests, the next step is to brainstorm potential solutions. This stage should encourage creativity and openness; every idea is reasonable. Use collaborative tools like shared documents or virtual whiteboards to make this process inclusive and efficient remotely.

4. Evaluating These Solution

After brainstorming, evaluate the proposed solutions against the interests you've identified. Remember to consider the feasibility of implementing these solutions in a remote work environment. This step might require further discussion and negotiation among the parties involved.

5, Selecting the Best Solution

Once all solutions have been evaluated, it's time to select the best one. The 'best' solution is usually the one that most satisfies everyone's interests and is feasible to implement. In a remote setting, you might need to use voting tools or anonymous surveys to make this decision-making process fair and inclusive.

6. Implementing the Solution

After selecting the best solution, the next step is to implement it. This may involve assigning tasks, setting deadlines, and creating a plan of action. Ensure this process is transparent and communicated clearly to all team members. This step may also involve follow-ups to ensure the solution is implemented as planned.

7. Reflecting on the Process

The final step of conflict resolution involves reflecting on the process. Discuss what worked well, what didn't, and what could be improved for future conflict resolution. This step is crucial for continuous learning and improvement. It could be done through feedback forms or reflective meetings.

The '7 steps of conflict resolution' method provides a structured approach to managing conflicts in remote teams. By adapting this method to the virtual environment, teams can ensure that conflicts are handled effectively and constructively, enhancing collaboration and team harmony.


The art of managing conflict in a remote workspace can be viewed as something other than an insurmountable challenge. Indeed, dealing with disagreements and differences can seem daunting, especially in a virtual environment where face-to-face cues and in-person interaction are missing. However, with the proper conflict resolution strategies in place, it's entirely possible to turn these challenges into opportunities for growth and learning.

Mastering conflict resolution can transform your virtual workspace into a vibrant collaboration and innovation hub. When handled effectively, conflicts can lead to greater understanding, stronger relationships, and improved team dynamics. Differences in opinions can stimulate creativity, leading to innovative solutions that might not have surfaced in a conflict-free environment. Therefore, seeing conflict as an engine for innovation rather than a barrier can bring about a significant shift in team dynamics.

Respect is another critical aspect of a healthy remote workspace. When conflict resolution strategies are correctly implemented, they foster an atmosphere of mutual respect. Every team member's viewpoint is valued, and everyone is treated with fairness and empathy. This respect can enhance team unity and productivity, making the remote workspace more enjoyable and rewarding.

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