Virtual Teams Video Cliff Note #6: Four Types of Conflict in Virtual Teams

Watch This Video About the Four Types of Conflict in Virtual Teams

We began a ‘Virtual Teams Video Cliff Notes’ Series to guide managers in conflict in virtual teams. The series contains ten employee relationship management articles, and features short video clips about building a virtual team introduced by Yael Zofi. If you missed the previous five cliff notes, or need a refresher, here are direct links to them:


This week we resume the series with Video Cliff Note #6: The Four Types of Conflict in Virtual Teams.

The potential for misunderstandings in the virtual world is great, where even simple misperceptions can result in conflict situations. Lack of face-to-face interactions create the conditions for conflicts to arise all too frequently, derailing projects. Therefore conflicts – even minor ones – need to be addressed early, prevent them from spiraling out of control using these employee relationship management strategies.

As a starting point, every virtual team member should understand the types of conflict that may occur. There are four types of conflict in virtual teams, as follows:


  1. Performance Conflict: What Am I Supposed to Do and How Should I Do it?
  2. Identity Conflict: Where Do I Belong?
  3. Data Conflict: What Should I Focus on First?
  4. Social Conflict: Who Are the People on My Team and What Are Their Personalities?

Chapter 5 (Defusing Conflict and Overcoming Roadblocks) of A Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams, describes the types, dimensions and levels of conflict. This chapter also contains helpful case studies and virtual mediation techniques. Managers have a great resource in a series of exercises and questions designed as a ‘Virtual Roadmap’ to Productive Conflict Management. This ‘Virtual Roadmap’ is an indispensible tool for managers to use when defusing conflict in virtual teams.

Video Transcript:

In the virtual space, in particular when it comes to misunderstandings or conflicts that could derail a project, there are four types of conflicts that exist.

One is around performance, performance conflict is oftentimes there’s an issue around what am I supposed to do and how should I do it, I might have my performance standards but you’re my boss and you are located somewhere else, so what is a performance conflict so that’s one.

The second one often happens is an identity conflict and in today’s business environment many virtual team members are working on multiple teams reporting to different managers in a matrix organization so the identity has to do with where do I belong, on this virtual project for my local project and so the finding that balance on the identity conflict is very important.

The third is data conflict we’re all overwhelmed with a lot of information and data, we’re probably getting inundated with email and just lots of information all day long, so data has to do with what should I work on first.

And the fourth one which is also important in the virtual space and sometimes you forget about that is social conflict, and social conflict has to do with who are the people on my team and what are their personalities particularly if it’s a work at home situation or a remote location situation, so what’s important for a virtual manager is to understand that these are the four types of virtual conflicts that occur most often and to build the mechanisms in place, to identify what are the performance expectations, to help virtual team members understand the identity, the belongingness, to clarify what data is most important to relevant, it’s important to be copied and everything but what should’ve you work on first what are the priorities and as they shift, shift with them and the fourth is to create some team spirit, to create social bonding even though that we’re virtual there is a human connection element that transcends everything we still have certain hobbies, certain experiences and we share some life things like children and many teams do this in many creative ways, so those are the four key elements and them there a lot of stories and tips and guidelines in my book about the four types of conflict in virtual teams.

Posted in Virtual Management