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Mastering conflict resolution in remote teams

Embrace these advanced techniques for effective communication in hybrid workplaces.

Mastering conflict resolution in remote teams
[Source photo: Rawpixel]

Despite the many CEOs throwing tantrums over return-to-office mandates and the numerous headlines about large companies like JP Morgan Chase demanding full-time office work, the data doesn’t lie. It shows that we’ve seen a growth in remote work in recent weeks, according to the latest edition of LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index, which surveyed 5,860 U.S. professionals.

Mostly onsite work has decreased from a high of 55% in November 2022 to 50% by January 2023, while remote work went from 25% to 28% in that time period, and hybrid increased from 16% to 18%. And similar data emerges from research by Stanford University’s Nicholas Bloom, who reported in March 2023 that in cities like New York, Chicag, and Atlanta, more postings are open to remote workers than at any time in the past three years. In fact, office occupancy has decreased from over 50% compared to pre-pandemic levels in the beginning of 2023 to just 46% by mid-April 2023.

Leaders need to face the music: Remote work—full-time or part-time hybrid—is here to stay. That’s what I tell the leaders I speak to every week on the subject.

That means addressing the unique challenges associated with this new work modality can make or break a team’s success. Conflict resolution is one such challenge that, when mastered, can significantly boost your remote team’s performance and morale.


No amount of advanced technology can substitute the magic of in-person watercooler chats. But fear not, my fellow remote warriors. By creating a virtual watercooler environment, you can foster positivity and camaraderie in your remote team.

In one instance, a large financial-services company faced significant communications breakdowns among its remote employees. The solution? Establishing a designated online space for casual conversations and team-building activities. This virtual gathering spot allowed team members to connect and build rapport, ultimately leading to improved conflict resolution.

Most of my clients implemented a “Morning Update” for four- to eight-person teams within their company. Teams establish a separate channel for personal, nonwork discussions using collaboration software, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello, or other similar tools.

Every morning, all team members send a message answering the following questions:

1) How are you doing overall?

2) How are you feeling right now?

3) What’s been interesting in your life recently outside of work?

4) What’s going on in your work: What’s going well, and what are some challenges?

5) What is one thing about you or the world that most other team members do not know about?

This activity provides an excellent foundation for developing relationships, rebuilding trust, and accommodating differences.


Remote communication leaves ample room for misinterpretation. Active listening is your secret weapon in this battle. Train your team to be the Sherlock Holmes of communication: observing, analyzing, and empathizing with their counterparts.

A regional insurance company found success with this technique after experiencing a series of misunderstandings among remote team members. By implementing active listening-training sessions, the company saw a significant decrease in conflicts and an increase in overall satisfaction.


When it comes to remote conflict resolution, empathy and transparency are as vital as phoning home was for E.T. Ensure that your team members express their emotions and concerns openly while empathizing with their colleagues, which helps address bias and intolerance while improving relationships.

A midsize IT company experienced a breakthrough in team dynamics when it adopted the E.T. approach. Managers encouraged employees to be open about their feelings and held regular check-ins to address any concerns. This practice not only resolved conflicts more efficiently but also strengthened team bonds.


Never underestimate the power of face-to-face communication—even in the virtual world. Video calls provide visual cues and help prevent miscommunication.

A professional-services company of about 100 staff members found its conflict resolution dramatically improved after switching from text-based to video communication for team meetings. This simple, yet effective, change enabled employees to pick up on nonverbal cues and clarify any misunderstandings in real time.


Imagine trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with ambiguous instructions and inconsistent feedback. That’s how remote teams feel when they lack the three Cs: clarity, consistency, and constructive feedback.

A late-stage SaaS startup overcame a major communication hurdle by incorporating the three Cs into their workflow. Managers provided clear instructions, maintained consistent communication channels, and offered constructive feedback. The result? A highly motivated and conflict-free team.


In remote work, out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. Regular team check-ins are essential for addressing potential conflicts before they escalate.

The largest law firm in a Midwestern city saw a marked improvement in team dynamics after implementing weekly check-ins. This practice provided a platform for employees to raise concerns and resolve conflicts proactively.


With remote work comes the opportunity to build a team from a diverse pool of talent. While this diversity can be an incredible asset, it also presents unique challenges in conflict resolution. Developing cultural intelligence is the key to unlocking the full potential of your global remote team.

A direct-to-consumer e-commerce company of about 200 staff decided to hire talent around the globe after going remote during the pandemic, finding this modality worked well for them, and committing to maintaining a remote-first culture after the end of the pandemic.

However, what it failed to realize was that by hiring globally, it would face culture clashes within its remote workforce, causing conflicts to escalate. By implementing cultural-intelligence training and encouraging employees to learn about their colleagues’ backgrounds and customs, the company was able to transform potential conflicts into opportunities for growth and collaboration.


One of the most effective ways to handle remote conflict resolution is by empowering your team to resolve conflicts among themselves. Peer-to-peer mediation can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility within the team, leading to stronger connections and better conflict management.

A prominent healthcare organization faced escalating tensions among remote team members. By implementing a peer-to-peer mediation program, the organization was able to address conflicts more proactively and efficiently, allowing team members to feel heard and respected.


Finally, in a world where change is the only constant, flexibility is the superhero cape that every remote team needs. Being adaptable to new situations, technologies, and communication styles can make a world of difference in conflict resolution.

A multinational tech company faced an uphill battle with conflicts arising from different time zones and communication preferences. By encouraging flexibility and adopting asynchronous communication tools, the company witnessed a significant reduction in misunderstandings and an overall improvement in team cohesion.

Remember that the key to success lies in your commitment to create an inclusive, supportive, and open environment where conflicts are viewed as opportunities for growth and improvement. By empowering your remote team to communicate effectively, embrace diversity, and resolve conflicts proactively, you will not only enhance team performance and morale, but also set the stage for long-term success in the remote-work arena.

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Gleb Tsipursky, PhD, is the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is the author of seven7 books, including Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. More

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