Resolving Team Conflicts: a Cheat Sheet That May Save Your Team

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Conflicts

The topic of conflicts that may interfere with the working routines of your team is very wide and cannot fit into a brief overview. Yet, here we can push you in the right direction for research by listing particular conflicts to keep an eye on and offering a common path for solving them. So let’s start the journey.

Types of conflicts in the team 

– Conflicts based on job-related tasks and duties

They can concern anything – from being late to meetings to turning in inaccurate data or numbers and not doing the assigned share of work. To avoid this situation, define clearly what everyone is expected to deliver (and when) and what is totally unacceptable no matter what (blame-shifting or mobbing, for example).

– Conflicts based on the inappropriate selection of leadership styles made by people in managerial/leading positions

That’s what you have to be careful about. You as a leader set the example and at the same time exercise power over your subordinates. If you are overly authoritarian, the team becomes fearful and aggressive in response, if you prioritize everyone’s feelings over the result, the work won’t get done. So your task is to balance the style to find a middle ground that is conducive to work.

– Conflicts based on personal styles of work

They can be listed together with task-based conflicts, but personality-based conflicts usually do not contain a malign intention. People try to work at their best, but their views on what and how to do just clash. So again, set clear expectations, and maybe reshuffle the team a bit to reduce the frictions

– Conflicts based on personal incompatibilities

Sometimes people just cannot get along. If a person others complain about is too valuable a specialist, you will have to place them on some other team or build a new team around him/her. No persuasion can make people like each other or show respect.  

The path to resolving team conflicts successfully

Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to learn how to approach solving this problem.

– Maintain your calmness and clear vision of the situation

As a supervisor and a manager, you have to be above the fight, keeping your mind sober and looking for a solution in the heat of the dispute. So don’t take sides or get involved emotionally too much, you will show your sincere concern through your help in conflict settling.

– Provide opportunities for communication and listen (and make others listen)

That’s how you learn what happened. Don’t listen to gossip or third-party retellings. Talk to each party, first in private, and that at the common table. Let every party talk and make others listen without interruptions. If the problem was a miscommunication, it may be resolved at this stage already.

– Invite all team members into the process of searching for solutions and decision-making

You should not arrive at a solution that reflects the interests of one party and leaves the other party totally dissatisfied. You need to gather all suggestions and see how to make them work together. If you drop ideas of one party, you have to ignore the ideas of all other participants. 

– Reach a consensus

That’s what you need to arrive at when you try to blend the demands and complaints of all team members involved in the conflict into something workable. The parties should accept your offer. It can be reached anyway; it will just take more time than just giving an order to do so-and-so and deeming the problem solved.

– Follow on the solution implementation

It’s too easy to leave the negotiation table and think that everything will be OK now. Implementation of the solution should be tracked as well so that no one feels the temptation to behave after the old template that caused the conflict. That’s the key to resilience and a sustainable working environment in the team.

– Seek the help of the HR department, senior management, or third-party professionals if the conflict is too bitter

Sometimes the problem is too big or too complex, or too delicate to handle for you alone, and it’s fine to engage other people to solve it. Your superiors may have the authority to recruit professionals like mediators or coaches who will bring new perspectives and tools. This step is also a mature approach to conflict solving.

Another mature step is to get the basic knowledge of how to resolve team conflict before the storm hits. Then you will be well prepared to do it or even will prevent the small friction from growing into an open conflict. Anyway, it will be a useful addition to your managerial toolkit.