Managing Team Conflict – Watch Out For Traffic!

Managing team conflict in virtual teams is similar to face-to-face or physical settings – because of misunderstandings, wrong assumptions, hurt feelings, and a lack of communication. Conflicts, even minor ones, need to be addressed early or they tend to spiral out of control, especially in the virtual environment.

But because of the nature of virtual teamwork and the technology we rely on to communicate, such as email and other mediums where we don’t get the added benefits of body language, tone, and other environmental cues, virtual settings have more potential pitfalls that put them at risk for possible conflict and misunderstanding.

The lack of structure compared with the traditional workplace creates many more opportunities for misunderstandings, inconsistencies, communication barriers, and ways to fly under the radar. Managerial oversight is spread thin, and members from different cultures who may speak other languages work in complex situations. Unfortunately, the conditions for conflict in virtual teams to arise appear all too easily.

Managing Team Conflict – Get Out Of The Conflict Jam

managing team conflict

“Dealing with conflict is a challenge for any team leader, but conflict can escalate more quickly in a virtual environment when lack of connection leads to misunderstandings.

There are 4 types of conflict in the virtual world, and they are: Performance Conflict, Data Conflict, Identity Conflict, Social Conflict.

By identifying the type of conflict and your position in the situation, you can better work through a systematic process for resolution.”

Yael Zofi


The most frequent contributing factors to conflict in virtual teams are:

  • Misaligned expectations, goals, and priorities
  • Feeling that someone isn’t pulling their weight
  • Miscommunication or a complete lack of communication (which can leave a person feeling like he or she is floundering)
  • Not knowing where one fits on the team

Add a cross-cultural component to the mix, since so many teams are global these days, and you have an environment ripe for miscommunication and conflict.

Although the word conflict may tend to connote something negative, it does not necessarily have to be destructive. Conflict situations, when appropriately handled, can yield productive results.

The good news is just as virtual teams have their own language principles, and modes of operation, there are also specific techniques you can use to get to the bottom of problems and resolve conflict, even when you’re not all in the same room.

Bonus! These conflict management techniques will give you a stronger, clearer communication overall, which will help you in managing conflict in virtual teams and preventing some down the road. Take some time to learn more and explore managing team conflict blog posts, watch Yael speak about the 4 Types of Virtual Team Conflict, and get tips for Turning Lemons into Lemonade that can help you move past misunderstandings or disagreements—and maybe even avoid a few in the future.