rumour, gossip & Politics - conflict in virtual teams
Updated: Dec 15, 2022
Remember when you were working at your desk, getting up and grabbing a coffee and a chat in the kitchen, walking past your team and stopping to swap news and see how they were doing. There were always issues but you could sit down together and talk about them.
These days lots of us are working hybrid. We've got used to Zoom etc. and the day to day work is getting done. But the macroeconomic climate in the world has brought with it uncertainty about business direction, worries about job security and no work social life.
This is a perfect storm for conflicts based on personal likes and dislikes, rumours, gossip, office politics and power issues.
Here's an example:
A team member is worried about job security...... someone on the team who she does not particularly like seems to have ignored her input on a piece of work,....... she is unclear anyway about what her role is .... next meeting her webcam is off for the whole meeting and she doesn't tell you anything.
When you are actually in the office together every day you hear the gossip, dispel the rumours and deal with the politics as it happens.. People are also more likely to come and talk to you about issues.
It is also easier to rely on physical cues to sense when trouble is brewing - people being cold around the coffee machine etc. Where people are not always in the office you can't see the body language so you need to look for small changes in online behaviour which are harder to pick up.
So when we're working remotely some of the time we have more issues which are more difficult to pick up.
A lot of these can be prevented by skilful team leadership :
Communicate fully and very often about business direction
Address the issues that worry people including job security
Make very clear goals, priorities and expectations for the team and individually
Talk about conflicts in the hybrid teams
Make it ok to raise conflicts in all team meetings - face to face and online. 5 - 10 minutes before the end say " What haven't we talked about ? "
Now is the time to let the team decide together ways you can prevent and deal with the inevitable frictions that will arise.
Instead of bottling up problems the team can learn to handle them and sail through the storm.