Teams and organisations all experience conflict from time to time. What marks great teams and organisations is how they deal with this.
Hybrid working is now a normal way of working in our organisations. As we navigated COVID-19, the hybrid workplace, and other external influences, we were faced with some hurdles, including the conflict in the hybrid workplace.
Conflict resolution in a hybrid workplace requires some different leadership skills and processes that need to be applied with greater intent. But what are these?
In this blog, we delve into conflict at work, how conflict at work can be defined, and leadership skills that can support us in overcoming conflict.
Exploring Conflict at Work
In a survey conducted by the CIPD, it was found that 38% of employees report conflict at work. Out of those interviewed, 40% said the conflict was with their line manager. An additional 35% mentioned that the conflict was with their peers.
Unfortunately, conflict at work often leads to stress, a drop in motivation and productivity, sickness, absence, and even resignations. Considering this, we can assume that organisations that deal with conflict well and are equipped with the leadership skills to do so may often have a competitive advantage.
Defining Conflict in Organisations
As we all have slightly different views of what conflict in organisations can mean, we’ve shared our definition of conflict in the workplace below. In doing so, we can begin to define and contrast opposition and disruption in this context too.
Conflict is an undesired interpersonal problem that occurs between individuals, either in the same team, across teams, or at the senior team level, that leads to underperformance.
Conflict is usually damaging to the organisation and individuals involved as it can lead to:
Lack of collaboration
Though conflict resolution can be improved with leadership skills and leadership coaching to enhance relationships and trust, conflict by itself causes harm. This is because conflict is often due to personal attacks, different and opposing values, a perceived lack of performance, or disagreement on processes.
Opposition is healthy, robust, and passionate debate about the things that matter. High levels of trust and relationship mean that no one is damaged by the process. This is a situation where anything can be said, and nothing is left unsaid.
Disruption is caused by individuals with opposing views who question the very foundation of organisational thinking. This includes the credibility of worldviews, thought processes, and conclusions.
“The successful person has unusual skill at dealing with conflict and ensuring the best outcome for all.” – Sun Tzu
Conflict Resolution in a Hybrid Workplace
When everyone is office-based, conflict can often be difficult to resolve, but it is usually obvious and noticeable as it affects many day-to-day interactions. When working in a hybrid way, conflict may not be as obvious and can sometimes be kept superficially in check, as people may be able to avoid direct contact with one another for long periods.
Unfortunately, this presents a problem for organisations, especially if conflicts are simmering relatively unnoticed below the surface whilst eroding performance, climate, and satisfaction at work.
“Things rarely get better by themselves.” – Ian White
Conflicts may be difficult to challenge, and we can sometimes feel that intervening may only make matters worse. But from experience, we know that when we don't intervene, the conflict could become worse, as can the consequences of conflict.
Many of us know what a conflict resolution process looks like, but what are the additional things to consider and do when thinking about conflict resolution in a hybrid workplace? We share some ideas below.
Put Good Working Relationships on the Agenda
We can find that this task dominates the other important roles of leaders and managers, namely those of building relationships and developing people. This can be even more so in a hybrid workplace where there is less contact time. However, this reduced contact time can be spent discussing tasks and task completion.
It is therefore important to intentionally highlight, carve out time, and set standards to build and maintain good working relationships.
When working in a hybrid way, developing intentional leaders is far more important. For this reason, opportunities need to be created more often since they are less likely to occur naturally. Furthermore, it is even more important to ensure that tasks do not overly dominate conversations, meetings, and priorities. To determine this, you could ask yourself the following questions:
How often are working relationships discussed in one on one meetings?
How are people held to account for building trust?
How often do team meetings focus on building trust and relationships?
Have teams contracted with the team leader regarding how the team leader will know if something is not okay?
When teams are in the office, what are they spending their time doing?
How much of this time is spent on building and maintaining trusted relationships and resolving conflict?
Being intentional is key to this approach.
Working relationships are important, and as such, they need to be a high priority and focus, both when there are issues and, more importantly, when things are going well.
Know Each Other; Know What Triggers Conflict
Knowing what triggers conflict in a hybrid workplace is much harder to achieve when working in a hybrid way. But it is particularly important for people who are new to the team. Getting to know one another takes time. When working in a hybrid way, this takes far longer, but it is critical to preventing and resolving conflict.
A great way for team members to get to know one another is to complete the Core StrengthsTM profile. Here, a professionally accredited practitioner can guide the team and individuals through their results and discover more about ‘results through relationships.'
Having Core StrengthsTM profiles will greatly reduce the time it takes your teams to get to know one another. These profiles also ensure that they achieve a far deeper understanding of each other’s motives and strengths. This includes understanding conflict triggers and how to manage conflict.
There are also add-ons for MS Teams and Outlook that give support when communicating with others, especially for people who have different core motives from each other.
The Leadership Coaches provide Core StrengthsTM profiles and training as an essential way for hybrid and remote teams to get to know each other and learn how to resolve conflict.
Create Psychological Safety
Leaders have a responsibility for creating a culture of trust and psychological safety. How a leader responds to criticism, feedback, and mistakes is important to how safe the team will feel. This can be more challenging in a hybrid workplace, and effort needs to be made to demonstrate genuine vulnerability, humility, and compassion actively and authentically.
When considering whether your people feel psychologically safe, ask yourself the following:
What is the response when a team member asks for help or shares difficulties?
Is asking for help or sharing difficulties seen as a weakness?
Do team members feel respected?
Are contributions valued?
Is well-being cared for?
What is the climate of the team?
McKinsey explores this further as they look at the critical role of the team leader for psychological safety.
When team members feel safe in a good team climate, there is a strong foundation of support for the discussions and emotions that accompany conflict resolution.
Psychological safety is required even more so for conflict resolution in a hybrid workplace, as individuals working alone can often build untrue assumptions and feel a greater amount of worry. Where there is conflict, it is important to ‘nip developments in the bud’ - strong psychological safety in a hybrid team allows this to happen.
When dealing with conflict resolution in a hybrid workplace, intentionally leading and giving time to building and maintaining relationships, accelerating team members getting to know one another using Core StrengthsTM profiling, and actively demonstrating psychological safety are key.
Where possible, the more difficult conversations and conflict resolution would preferably happen face to face.
Contact Us Today
Book a free consultation by calling us today if you want to find out how our expert coaching services, including one on one coaching and leadership skills development, can support you to bring about conflict resolution in a hybrid workplace.
We are also accepting submissions of interest to complete a complimentary Core Strengths profile with us, including a professional debrief. You can submit your interest to email@example.com
Written by Ian at The Leadership Coaches
“Getting under the skin of workplace conflict”, by CIPD
“The role of the leader in psychological safety” by McKinsey
“6 Steps to conflict resolution” by HR Daily Advisor