Article: Simple Ways to Avoid Conflicts with Teammates who work remotely

Life @ Work

Simple Ways to Avoid Conflicts with Teammates who work remotely

The first lesson for you to internalize is that there is absolutely no point disagreeing with each other over snarky emails and text chats.
Simple Ways to Avoid Conflicts with Teammates who work remotely

In an office we have the luxury of running into our colleagues by the photocopier, in the pantry or on a chai and gup-shup break. We walk the corridor talking about work, weekends, family (or not). C’est la vie at work! These face-to-face conversations actually help establish rapport and build trust. But, not everybody gets to live a typical office life. 

Today, working as a part of a remote team is rather common yet at the same time it takes a mountain of an effort to form a bond and know each other. The big test comes when there is a difference of opinion. It overwhelms the parties involved. While it would have been easier to resolved the discord should they have been separate by cubicles, but it’s really not so when colleagues are separated geographically. Confusion and frustration takes toll.

Kritika* (name changed on request), who works remotely for an international publishing house says, “It’s true that as fulfilling as it is to work from home, sometimes it can get to you. These uncalled for conflicts kind of steal your peace of mind. One only learns when they find themselves in the middle of it.” 

Stop that angry chat. Get on a video call

Both verbal as well as non-verbal cues are absent when you collaborate with someone digitally. So, you have got to stop taking the liberty of typing the ugliest of things over chat. Your non-stop typing-away-to-glory on your laptop is nothing but immediate gratification you seek. Your anger is getting out of your system yet not doing any good to either you or your colleague.

Cut to chase, imagine, you were in the same room as your colleague. Would you have spoken with as much venom as you were on chat? On the contrary, you would have behaved like reasonable adults and talked things through. And if this is the case then why blow things out of proportion. Just ask for their availability for a video chat and put an end to the melodrama already. Once you get to see each other you can gauge each other’s body language, tone of voice instead of misinterpreting anything unintended. Did they slouch when talking to you or had raised their eyebrow or tightened their lips or were they relaxed, calm and easy-going? There’s so much you can infer meaning from.

Why talk over emails? Just dial your colleague’s phone number!

A major share of conversation you have with your remotely-working colleague is over email, right? Well, that needs to be reduced. Other miscellaneous stuff can happen over phone, right?

In an article, E-Mail Is Easy to Write (and to Misread) which was published in the New York Times, Daniel Goleman says, “e-mail can be emotionally impoverished when it comes to nonverbal messages that add nuance and valence to our words. The typed words are denuded of the rich emotional context we convey in person or over the phone.” 

“I quite agree”, adds Kritika. “There is a lot of room for arguments over emails as much as over chats. Most on them turn relationships bitter to one’s expectations. One time I responded to an email by my colleague in humour but it was completely misinterpreted. It was turned upside-down when the opposite was intended. Fortunately, I learnt my lesson and stuck to having entertaining conversations over a phone call. Life’s much simpler that way!” 

Interact routinely

Stay in touch. At the end of every discussion talk about the next course of action and decide on subsequent follow-ups over either phone or video call. It could be weekly or bi-monthly or whatever number of times both of you have agreed on. Don’t forget that you won’t bump into them, like you would with other colleagues, regularly. If you happen to be in their city let them know in advance so that you can have a working lunch or a coffee. The idea is improve on how you communicate with each other despite the distance. It is not that difficult, eh? All you need is the intention to warm-up to each other and the rest will follow. 

Don’t just talk about work

There’s plenty one can talk about like parents, pets, weather, culture, politics etc. At the end of the day we must focus on our similarities too. Put effort in developing a sense of camaraderie rather than making it only about work. Mark your colleague’s birthday, anniversary in your calendar and send a note, card or flowers. Is that a lot to ask for? Perhaps not.

As we said, these are a few ways that can help you avoid ugly confrontations and verbal duels. However, if you see things going off the radar and the roof then mutually agree upon involving someone who has a neutral stance. This should put an end to both your prolonged misery. 

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Topics: Life @ Work

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