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Lindred Greer: Why Virtual Teams Have More Conflict

https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/lindred-greer-why-virtual-teams-have-more-conflict#

gsb.stanford.edu

Lindred Greer: Why Virtual Teams Have More Conflict
Meeting virtually is a necessity in today's global economy, and doing so has plenty of advantages. Organizations can gather experts together regardless of geographic location, companies can give employees greater flexibility in where they work, and virtual technology can reduce the negative effects of hierarchy, allowing more equal participation among colleagues.

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Conflict in virtual teams

Conflict in virtual teams

...is more likely to escalate because:

  • Colleagues are more likely to take disagreements personally when they don't have the context, nuance or even the facial expressions of the other person they are engaging with.
  • Communication is often impersonal, so it encourages a back and forth that escalates more quickly than during in-person encounters.

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Managing conflict in virtual teams

Managing conflict in virtual teams
  • Assign tasks that demand interdependence among team members to complete, so that they rely on each other to succeed.
  • Set clear goals. Formalizing the team’s vision, roles, norms, work processes, and strategies can help keep a team on track.
  • Awarding teamwork is crucial to encourage them to work together and discourage an individual from going off the rails.
  • Be patient. Teams often overcome problems of virtuality over time.

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Getting into remote working

Getting into remote working

Workers around the globe have been forced to take on the promise and challenges of virtual teamwork.

Many people are more used to working in person and haven't had the opportunity to pr...

Working well

Virtual teamwork places greater emphasis on communication and organization.

Over the short-term, newly formed virtual teams experience more negative outcomes, such as team conflict, lower satisfaction, less knowledge sharing, and poorer performance. But, they will adapt and improve over time.

Adapting quickly

At an individual level, some people will find it easier to adapt than others.

  • A study revealed that when people are imaginative and enjoying a new challenge, they are happier to embrace virtual teamwork.
  • Extroverted individuals prefer face-to-face work, and virtual work may lessen the energy they get from social interaction.
  • Introverts are better at adapting to a virtual environment as it involves less face-to-face interaction.
  • Those who like to make quick decisions prefer virtual teams.

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Remote work and the lack of context around communication

Remote work and the lack of context around communication

Virtual communication often lacks the nonverbal clues we notice with in-person conversations.

To compensate, we often make assumptions or jump to conclusions that can cause harm to our work...

Virtual communication: how to avoid misunderstandings

Instead of acting on your assumptions, go to the facts. Understanding the individual styles of employees can also give interactions more context and help avoid misunderstandings.

  • Prioristizers are logical, analytical, and data-oriented people who focus on goals and outcomes. They don't like to engage in chitchat.
  • Planners thrive with structure, planning, and talking about the details. They often communicate in bullet points and numbers.
  • Arrangers are supportive, relationship-driven team members who work best when they form connections.
  • Visualizers are big-picture thinkers who want minimal details. They will often email at the last minute, and apologize for short deadlines.

Virtual work: adjust your communication and expectations

To avoid unnecessary conflict, it is essential to understand the nuances of colleagues and how they work.

Accept that others may not work and communicate the same way you do. If you see someone looking to the side during a video conference, instead of thinking they are not paying attention, understand that they may really be taking notes. Another person may want to spend time on a connection before they engage with the content.

Focus on your camera

Practice looking into your camera during video conferences when you speak, even for brief moments.
It's challenging to focus on your camera for an entire meeting, but know that you increase the ...

Maintain a strong voice

Strong voices convey authority, credibility, and confidence.
Using a loud voice will also keep you from mumbling and from speaking too quickly due to the amount of breath required.

Frame yourself in the right way

Make sure you have time before the meeting to pick your location and put your head fully in frame.
In a video conference, your head and the top of your shoulders should dominate the screen. Also, be mindful of your background. Distracting elements will pull attention away from you.