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In organizations, we celebrate the sales team for bringing new business to the firm. After all, a company can’t survive for long without revenue. But, on the other side of many org charts sits the isolated, often forgotten, customer service team. This department is usually regarded as a cost center, rather than a company asset.

If you’re considering customer service as a money pit, think again. According to American Express, 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether to do business with a company. Quality customer support is imperative for sales

If your company sees service as a weight, you’re likely leaving revenue on the table and alienating customers. Invesp notes that investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones. In fact, in 2019 nine percent of American consumers switched companies due to poor customer service, says New Voice Media.

For best results, both sales and service need to work in tandem to provide the best-in-class experience your customers deserve. Let’s explore how to foster a winning dynamic between the two teams.

Also Popular: Managing the Dynamics Between Your Sales and Service Teams

The Significance of Customer Service

Before we dive into strategy, let’s examine the true significance of your company’s customer service department. Although the perception often is that this team exists solely to put out complaint fires and appease customers, the reality is that they do so much more. Did you know, 73% of customers fall in love with a brand and remain loyal because of friendly customer service reps, reports RightNow. 

Customer service is the front line for your business. They make or break the customer experience. Want more proof? New Voice Media also reports that the #1 reason customers switch to a new brand is that they feel unappreciated, while 78% of customers have backed out of a purchase due to poor customer experience. 

Starting to see how customer service impacts sales? If you need more convincing, consider that consumers are willing to spend 17% more on a company with outstanding customer service, reports American Express, and 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service, according to HubSpot Research. 

When the customer service team is operating at peak efficiency, they do much more than resolve issues. They foster relationships with customers. They put smiles on their faces. And they leave a favorable lasting impression of your brand in their minds. All of this equals a high customer retention rate, which means higher revenues. Bain & Company quantified this in a recent report stating that increasing customer retention rates (i.e. keeping customers happy) by just 5% can increase profits between 25% and 95%!

And, if they have the right skill set, personality, and training, your customer service team can actually bring in new business, too. They’ll nimbly move from problem solver to cross-seller or upseller, which increases customer satisfaction -- and your profits. Essentially, they’ll become an extension of your sales team.

In short, the department is absolutely vital to your company’s longevity and growth.

Why Sales and Customer Service Must Align

It’s tough for customer service to shine when they’re in conflict with the sales department. And you want them to shine, because as many as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience, according to a Segment Survey. Often selling on commission, your sales team is typically concerned with one thing and one thing only: closing the deal. This revenue-oriented drive can lead them to over-promise things to your customers. And, when the company can’t deliver, customer service is left holding the bag.

Over promising and under delivering comes with a whole host of problems for your customer service department. Those issues include:

And -- the detrimental impact to your customers can’t be overstated. When your company fails to serve them as promised, they’ll rightfully become angry and distrustful. Even worse, you’re likely to lose repeat business and, according to American Express, angry American customers are likely to share their negative experiences with about 15 people. 

So, when sales and service are at odds, interdepartmental communication will be poor, job satisfaction will plummet, customer retention will worsen, and the company’s bottom line will suffer. If you can get them in sync, though, you’ll have a happy, tight-knit workforce that closes more deals and delights customers. So, how can you get the two departments on the same page?

How to Improve the Interdepartmental Dynamic

As a leader, there are four key things you need to do to improve the interdepartmental dynamic:

Let’s look at each in turn.

Align Indicators of Success

The first place to look is your scorecard and your company metrics for success. Do sales and service match up? Are they working towards the same established goals? And, more importantly, do employee behaviors align with those stated success indicators? 

For example, if customer service has a goal of responding to all inquiries within two business days, the sales team shouldn’t promise a same-day response. The two teams must act as one and present a clear and consistent message to customers. After all, they are both working towards the same ultimate goal of making the company successful.

Create a Culture of Collaboration

Your company needs to make collaboration a normal, celebrated part of doing business that gets prioritized. Ideas and data should flow freely between the two departments. And everyone in the firm, including the sales team, should adopt the mantra that customer service is a mindset, not just a department. Bottom line: the lines of communication must stay open, and the once near-adversarial relationship should become more team-oriented.

Offer Team Building Opportunities

To promote unity between the two groups, offer ample opportunities for team building. When sales and service get together in an informal but planned way, they’ll get to know each other as people and gain empathy for one another’s perspective. Sales may think twice about promising the moon to a customer just to make a sale when they know service could have to deal with customer disappointment down the line.

In addition, seeing each other perform their respective roles can be eye-opening. They’ll understand the other department’s challenges and gain respect for everything that goes into being successful in that position. Consider arranging cross-department job shadowing between sales and service at the time of hire - and on an ongoing basis to cement these new perspectives. 

And, if appropriate, consider job swapping. An extroverted customer service representative with a competitive streak might enjoy being in sales for a day or two. And a detail-oriented sales associate may benefit from taking on a temporary customer service role. Just be sure you’re not setting your employees up to fail. If their personality doesn’t lend itself to the opposite role, this strategy isn’t a good fit for them - or your unsuspecting customers.

Provide the Right Structure, Tools, and Resources

The best philosophies and attitudes don’t mean a thing if the actual company structure and business processes don’t support them. As a leader, you must provide the structure, tools, and resources your teams require to perform at their best. That could mean ensuring adequate communication systems exist (think interoffice messaging) or physically situating the departments closer together in the office to facilitate more face-to-face conversations. The key is to make collaboration as easy as possible.

How Omnia Can Help

If you want to better understand your team members and discover ways to help them function as a cohesive group, a Team Dynamic Report can help. Based on the results of our signature behavioral assessment, this report shows how likely each team member is to communicate with each other and reveals deeper insight into their individual strengths and weaknesses. The report will give you an action plan to facilitate collaboration, improve communication, and unify your team.

The report can be customized to fit your firm’s unique circumstances. Getting one is easy. Simply fill out a questionnaire and hop on a quick call with us, and we’ll do the rest!

Final Thoughts

Sales and service have long been at odds. But, the truth is -- they’re both playing for the same team! Sometimes, employees just need to be reminded of that. As a leader, you have the power and responsibility to foster a winning dynamic between the two groups. When you do, you’ll have an unstoppable, connected workforce that wows your customers and positions your company for long-term success.

I stole the following from a meme or maybe a T-shirt: Introverts. We’re here, we’re uncomfortable, and we want to go home.

That about sums it up. I’m often uncomfortable around people, and even when I’m enjoying myself, I’m looking forward to being home. I like socializing, but it’s also exhausting. That’s really the crux of being an introvert. I get tired just thinking about interacting with people.

It can be hard to be an introvert at work because communication is vital in business; heck, it’s vital in life. Our work and personal relationships depend upon it. And the fact is, introverts have a lot to say, but if you aren’t asking in the right ways, it could create unnecessary problems.

There’s a big difference between managing a team of hard-charging, fast-talking extroverts and cautious, patient, meticulous introverts. If you’re managing both groups the same way, half your people are miserable. And let’s face it, it’s probably your introverts. They aren’t telling you otherwise or fighting for what they need. You’ll know someone was unhappy when they send you a resignation email. By then, it’s too late, and you didn’t even know there was an issue.

So, I’m here to speak (or rather write) on their behalf. First, we’ve established that I’m an introvert. I also manage a team of introverts, and I’m in the personality assessment business. It’s up close and personal experience at your disposal. But just so you know you are getting your money’s worth out of this blog, I also polled some introverts and asked them what they need from their managers. And while nothing came as a complete surprise, it was helpful to get their point of view. They were also kind enough to share their rationale, which I didn’t even ask for. A bonus of working with detailed, introspective thinkers, you get a lot more than you pay for, like this blog. So here we go:

  1. After their initial training, build their confidence in their own abilities and knowledge. Rather than providing the answers when they come to you, encourage them to think through the matter and resolve it independently. This motivates with a sense of accomplishment and inspires self-sufficiency. Create an environment where reasonable mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities rather than disasters; a tall column 8 isn’t going to let themselves go overboard and misuse this leeway.
  2. Cautious introverts hate having to ask questions. They’ll do it because they want to do things right, but they’ll be worried about bothering someone or that they should already know the answer. They appreciate being independent in their fact-finding, so having places they can access answers (procedure manual, shared knowledge center) is really appealing. Still, always encourage questions and be a mentor.
  3. Check-in on them to see how things are going. Cautious introverts aren’t necessarily great at proactively bringing up problems. One-on-one conversations or private emails are where they may feel most comfortable discussing issues, but only if they feel you are genuinely interested, not just going through the managerial motions. Focus conversations on tangible ways they can resolve problems; don’t simply give platitudes. 
  4. Eliminate "brainstorming" from your vocabulary. It can feel more like blindsiding. Instead, ask them to think about a question or problem and get back to you with their thoughts at an agreed-upon time. They will have more and better ideas if they think it over. This turning it over in their mind might even happen outside of their normal work hours, for instance, when they are on their evening walk. Why? Because often they are too busy putting out fires at work to do deep thinking. Introverts do not do their best thinking in spontaneous groups or amid distractions. Plus, they won’t fight to be heard over the assertive extroverts. This is not to say that you shouldn’t invite introverts to brainstorming meetings. Send an email a few days before the meeting to allow those introverts to prepare. They’ll be more likely to speak up when they have had a chance to gather their thoughts.  
  5. Many introverts like to get and give difficult news via email first to promise a follow-up call or meeting. It gives them time to process and tame any emotions. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all situations, but when possible, it’s a great way to pave the way for a productive conversation.  On the flip side, when I ask an introvert to call me or have a meeting, I am sure to include something like: “It’s nothing bad!” Column 2 and 8 introverts go straight to catastrophic thinking.  How do I know? I have an employee, who is amazing, and she once told me that every time I ask her to give me a call, she thinks she is getting fired. 
  6. As a leader, proactively manage your own stress. Be careful not to transfer it to others. If you are on edge or feeling overwhelmed, your introverted employees will absorb that energy the most, and they already tend to take things seriously, so the tension can amplify painfully. Introverts internalize stress, even if it isn’t theirs. 
  7. Let them focus. You may want to do it all right now, but resist introducing more than one new challenge at a time. Introverts tend to prefer concentration and mastery over ASAP and "good enough." 
  8. Don’t assume cautious introverts do not want to grow or move up, or that they will be fulfilled working the same support job for the next 5 years. They often want to master their work first before they feel confident taking on more or something different. The key is to find professional development goals that stretch and challenge them without overwhelming them. Sometimes they need a little push to step outside of their comfort zone and risk making the mistakes that come from learning. 
  9. Cautious, detailed introverts want to feel that what they do makes a valuable contribution.  Get good at verbalizing to your team that what they do matters. Show them how it ties into a goal or project, talk about the outcome, give status updates, and be specific.
  10. Introverts like praise, especially if they have a tall column 8. But they don’t like to be put on the spot. If they’ve worked hard on something, acknowledge their work. A group email or an email where their manager is cc’d is cool. Just don’t make them get up and take a bow. 

So, there you have it, ten ways to lead a team of supportive introverts. Here’s to making them more comfortable!

Businesses are about people working in a collection of teams to deliver on your company’s promise.  Your people make up the soul of your company.  Team building unifies people, making them an unstoppable force. Companies with robust team building programs perform better and have a brighter future than those that do not. Organizations “with a soul” outperform the S&P 400 in terms of higher employee engagement and retention, better customer service, long-term profitability, and more than 8x return vs. S&P 400 10-year returns. (Josh Bersin, Simply Irresistible: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, April 2014)

So, how do you create such a plan? And how do you do so when our teammates aren’t all in one physical space? Before we get into how let’s talk about why it’s important to do this.

Main Benefits of Team Building

Before we get into the components you need for a world-class, modern team building program, let’s look at what one can do for your company. If your organization gets team-building right, here’s what you can expect:

Keep in mind that by 2025 Millennials will make up an estimated 75% of the worldwide workforce (Source: Forbes). This will influence many companies’ future corporate cultures and affect communication and collaboration. When considering whether investing in a team-building program is essential, consider that 33% of employees say the ability to collaborate makes them more loyal (Source: The Economist). In comparison, 37% say “working with a great team” is their primary reason for staying with an employer (Source: Gusto).

Need more convincing? When those things are in place, you’ll:

Ready to get started on modernizing your team building program?  Let’s go.

Team Building Program Must-Haves

There are three main things that you must include in your team building program:

Together, these elements will foster a team that trusts each other, cares about one another, and works like a well-oiled machine.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these must-haves.

Activities to Bond

Extremely connected teams show a 21% increase in profitability. Staff who feel supported want to give their best and contribute to their company’s success. (Source: Gallup)

We’re all busy, but don’t discount the occasional non-work specific activities. These give your team the chance to get to know each other as people, not just colleagues. If you’re working virtually, consider a Lunch-and-Learn, a book club, or an after-work virtual Happy Hour with trivia, break out group challenges, and of course -- prizes are a must.

These activities build camaraderie. Interactive experiences create memories that build connections and give way to legendary stories shared across teams for years. These outside work experiences are also another way for people to get to know each other and see a different side of people, which helps build empathy for one another. And, as the connection deepens, trust follows. When that trust is in place, team members will rely on each other, support each other when needed, feel happier, be less likely to burnout, and achieve results.

A side benefit of these activities is how you show up as a leader for your team. They get to see a different side of you too.  Watching you struggle solving a problem or not getting out of an escape room so easily makes you appear a lot more human than you may in the weekly Sales Huddle. Also, these activities may shed light on talents among your team you haven’t discovered yet. They can expose natural strengths and tendencies that may not stand out in the daily work environment.

Opportunities to Learn

Events that let your employees blow off steam absolutely have their place. But, so do activities that help your business and your employees’ professional development. As you fill your team building program calendar, be sure to include opportunities for your team to level-up together. Team members can encourage one another, practice new skills amongst themselves, and hold each other accountable.

Learning experiences in a team environment create an opportunity to mix up groups and build collaboration across teams who may not work together daily or only communicate through email.  At The Omnia Group, we conduct a monthly learning lab with a variety of topics. We invite guest speakers from industry leaders and clients who give us great insights into their implementations. We watch videos together on topics such as building empathy and active listening. We also encourage people to get together in smaller groups to focus on joint learning that involves building their technical skills around Microsoft Office products and collaboration tools.

When you make professional development a priority, your organization’s collective knowledge pool deepens. You allow people to come together and share experiences they wouldn’t necessarily have in just a daily work atmosphere. Systems and processes will inevitably improve. And you’ll see those results in dollars and cents. You’ll also have a team that’s grateful for the investment you’ve made in them. That engagement bolsters the soul of your organization and your bottom line too.

Open Forum to Solve Problems and Innovate

Even the most well-meaning people and skilled professionals experience problems with one another from time to time. Your team building program should provide an open forum to address these issues as they arise. Common concerns that may need to be worked out include ineffective communication, broken processes, production bottlenecks, and team conflicts. These issues left unaddressed build stress, leading to low morale or, even worse -- burnout and turnover.

80% of US employees feel stressed due to ineffective company communication. (Source: Dynamic Signal) CareerBuilder sites that 61% of workers experience burnout and as many as 31% of workers admit to suffering from extreme stress. A company sharing duties, responsibilities, and openly problem-solving can distribute the workload more evenly to boost productivity while relieving stress on employees.

Create “safe” forums where teams can come together to openly communicate and share where they are experiencing breakdowns. Consider taking your teams through learning programs that cover how to give and receive feedback in ways that lessen defensiveness and create openness to hear all sides.  Although you can structure your forum in many ways, it must be a safe, cooperative place for all team members. The emphasis of your discussions should be on what’s happening -- not who may be to blame. Depending on the nature and depth of the problem, it may be worth bringing in a guest expert to facilitate a productive, relationship-oriented solution.  These kinds of sessions, when conducted productively, not only help build team collaboration but core problems get addressed, and innovations can arise. Some of the best ideas can come from these sessions -- new product ideas, process modernizations, and client delivery improvements that take your organization to a whole new level.

How Omnia Can Help

Each team member has a distinct personality. They bring different strengths, values, and worldviews to the table. Behavioral assessments unlock that valuable intel so you can craft a team building program that’s tailored specifically to your group. Your program will be enormously successful because it captures and honors the unique makeup of your team.

Businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover, says a ClearCompany report. Our assessments and behavioral insights can strengthen your company’s communication strategy and company culture, resulting in happier employees who openly communicate, become more productive and profitable, and reduce the likelihood of turnover.

Omnia offers a signature behavioral assessment that gets you the information you need in a snap. It’s fast and simple for employees to take part in, and you’ll receive instant, easy-to-digest results. If you want even more insight, we can also supply a deeper analysis. This, by the way, is another great activity you can use to build collaboration, develop empathy, and open communication across your team.  In other words -- this is a great team-building activity and very easy to do virtually.

Final Thoughts

Strong teams are the cornerstone, the soul, of a thriving business, but they don’t happen overnight.  Your employees want to be a part of a healthy, thriving team. To get a unified group's benefits, you’ll need to create and implement a custom team building program. To give that program the best chance of being successful in today’s modern business world, you must base it on your employees' deep understanding.

97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team affects a task or project (Source: Mckinsey), so imagine what the right insights into your team could do!

Get your program started the right way from the get-go. Contact us today!

Working remotely certainly has its perks for your team members. Sometimes, doing so is a necessity. But, prolonged (or indefinite) physical separation can cause employees to feel lonely and disconnected from their work. Unfortunately, when their morale drops, so does their productivity. 

As a leader, it’s your job to make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s your responsibility to keep your group unified, high functioning, highly effective, and in good spirits. How do you accomplish this when team members are scattered across the country or even the globe?

Bonus read: Conflict Resolution for Teams Working Remotely

Virtual Team Building

Enter: virtual team building. Team building involves getting employees together so that they can feel connected and learn about one another. Done right, the process can result in a tight-knit group that communicates effectively and collaborates to get things done for your organization. For best results, it should be done regularly and regarded as a critical business activity. Virtual team building is taking this important practice online.

Here are four main principles to keep in mind as you design your virtual team building program:

Let’s look at each in detail.

Always Communicate

Clear, continuous communication is always necessary for your team to function at its best. However, it becomes even more critical when your employees are working alone in their homes. They can’t walk down the hall, pop their head into an office, and say, “got a minute?” That means they need to feel comfortable communicating with you and their team members in other ways.

So, how do you ensure that information and support flow as they should? Try implementing these tips:

Use Tools

When your team is virtual, in-person meetings are obviously out. That means you’ll need to find other ways to bring your team together and keep them on the same page. Fortunately, there are many tools you can use to make gatherings and collaboration a snap

For example, Asana and Trello can help your virtual team keep projects organized. Platforms like Slack facilitate conversation throughout the workday. Programs like Zoom allow your team to actually see each other through video chat and are great for presentations. Of course, there are countless other options on the market. Your team’s unique needs will determine which specific tools to implement.

Have Fun

Your employees are people outside of work that have their own interests and like to blow off steam. When you encourage them to be their true selves during business hours, you’ll boost their morale and gain their trust. When you provide opportunities for your team members to be themselves together, they’ll forge lasting bonds that translate to improved employee engagement and productivity.

Here are a few ways your team can do this virtually:

Grow Together

Your team members crave professional development opportunities, whether they’re onsite or remote. When you provide them with a chance to learn new information and skills, you increase their loyalty to your organization, strengthen your team's talent, and set them up for future success. From a team-building perspective, it’s vital to give your group time to grow together.

Here’s how you could do it virtually:

How Omnia Can Help

At Omnia, we believe that truly understanding your team members is the key to leading them effectively. Our behavioral and cognitive assessments reveal deep insight into each employee’s strengths, challenges, and work preferences. This knowledge can help you create the ideal virtual team-building program for your group. The information you’ll get is so good that you might want to encourage results sharing as a team-building exercise!

Final Thoughts

Team building is essential for having a high-producing, tight-knit employee group. But, when your team members are remote, you need to get a little creative to make it happen. With the right tools, some employee intel, a willingness to experiment, and a few online-friendly activities at hand, virtual team building is possible.

Tell us: Which virtual team-building methods work best in your organization?

This week we're here to help you coach your team through conflict with a focus on cohesion.

It’s natural for humans to form teams, and it’s normal for those teams to develop specific dynamics. As a coach, a leader, it's important to influence those dynamics by setting clear goals, encouraging communication, and emphasizing ways to be productive and creative.  Without effective leadership, teams can become unproductive, apathetic, and even toxic.

While not every group will automatically become unified in their goals, these teams can be coached into cohesion with the right leadership. Cohesive teams are industrious and generally drama-free. Interactions among team members are respectful, disagreements are resolved peacefully, and agreement is a regularity.

How can you support your team to become more cohesive? We suggest the following:

Set High Expectations

The first step toward a top-performing, cohesive team is believing it exists. Set your expectations and your standards high. Offer support needed to meet these expectations and hold team members accountable to you and each other. Examples of ground rules include: Everybody shows up on time and ready to work, everyone participates, all ideas are respected, and commitments are kept.

Get to Know Who’s Who

We all learn differently, communicate differently, and handle conflict differently. These differences, combined with those based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, age, life experience, and so on, can be the driver for enhanced problem solving and innovation. Still, they also can be the source of stress and discord. Rather than assuming what people are likely to believe based on their outward characteristics and backgrounds, why not introduce some team-building exercises that reveal, more objectively, who’s who? Omnia’s professional development report helps employees understand their own personality traits and motivations. The report is ideal for reducing conflict and building collaboration.

Practice Real Inclusion

In every group, some members will be more vocal than others. These individuals might be the natural leaders worth following, or they might be those with the biggest egos who enjoy hearing themselves speak. In either case, don’t allow them to take over. The magic of diversity can’t work if true inclusion isn’t practiced. That means everyone gets a say, and each idea is given the consideration it deserves. This is not to say the team is obliged to spend hours hashing over every bad idea. However, dismissing an offering with a snort or off-handed comment is out of bounds and violates those ground rules mentioned earlier. Instead, anyone who cares to counter another’s idea should be required to defend her position with rational and clear principles. 

Get Out of the Way

As any sports fan knows, coaches encourage and enable others to do what they do. Coaches don’t do the work the players must do. So it is with good leadership. Getting out of the way is crucial. To bring your team to cohesion, be prepared to provide resources, inspiration, guidance, and wisdom, but don’t interfere where you’re neither needed nor wanted. At best, you’ll infantilize the team and teach dependence. At worst, you’ll create resentment and other ill feelings – all the while impeding work that would otherwise get done.

Praise Good Behavior

It’s common to complain that the same manager who is quick to criticize what employees do wrong is also slow to praise what employees do right. Don’t be that manager. Instead of catching your employees doing “bad,” catch them doing good – and let them know it.

Don’t Play Favorites

Nothing can tear a team apart faster than a leader who plays favorites. It’s okay to like some people more than you like others. It’s human nature and nothing to fret over. However, allowing your personal feelings to influence how you manage to the point of treating some employees unfairly is clearly to be avoided.

Highly functional teams are extremely valuable to the companies that support them. Coach your team into cohesion (or ensure it stays there) by following this article's advice.

When you think about conflict, you probably picture two (or more) employees disagreeing face-to-face in a meeting or common space at the office. It’s out in the open and usually very apparent. When you think of conflict resolution, you probably picture those involved sitting with a mediator to discuss challenges, miscommunications, and work toward solutions.

This format is tried-and-true, in a traditional setting. But what about the current workplace, where employees are remote and navigating new technologies in addition to outside stressors that may be less apparent?

The current world events, the pandemic, and civil unrest are not the only catalysts to more workers going remote, either full-time or on a hybrid schedule. According to a study from October 2019, the number of people who work from home had increased by 140% since 2005.

Additionally, it can be difficult getting everyone involved in a conflict on the same phone call and emails rarely help clarify once an issue has escalated.

Is there Really More Conflict in Remote Teams?

Not necessarily. Most conflicts arise due to communication issues. This is true in the workplace and personal relationships, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. What’s important is that you understand how dynamics, and even behaviors, can shift in a remote versus physical space and how each team member communicates. Armed with this knowledge, which behavioral and personality assessments can assist with, you can head off miscommunication before it becomes a real problem.

There are three truths to virtual environments and human behavior that can help you prepare:

  1. Virtual environments empower people to be harsh.
  2. Remote employees have a higher level of insecurity.
  3. Remote communication is healthier for some employees.

We’ll explore each of these then discuss steps to manage conflict among a remote team.

Virtual Environments Empower People to Be Harsh

If you’ve spent any time on social media or message boards, you know the internet is a hotbed for trolls. Even in professional communication, employees can feel empowered to be more brazen, or short, in responses and quick to share opinions without thinking that they may have held their tongue on if they were looking the person in the eyes. If you are a woman and/or BIPOC on LinkedIn, you know what we mean.

In fact, this behavior is so common it has a name: online disinhibition effect. “Online disinhibition is the lack of restraint one feels when communicating online in comparison to communicating in-person.” (Wikipedia). This effect ranges from sharing personal thoughts and fears that would otherwise remain hidden to using rude language and making threats. The distance, coupled with a lack of immediate response, can make employees more cavalier and confident in what they’re saying.

Tone is another consideration. Even if a colleague isn’t experiencing the online disinhibition or trying to be rude, wording or tone can sometimes be misconstrued by the recipients. Ever bristle at a curt email response? If you’re in the habit of sending quick emails, which we’ve all done, know that it can cause co-workers to worry about or misconstrue responses.

Remote Employees Have Higher Levels of Insecurity

This may impact 100% of remote workers more than those sent home for health and safety reasons; however, it’s a good factor to consider when working with a team. The lack of physical presence can warp an employee’s perception of their status, affecting how they interpret the tone of digital communication.

Another study polled more than 1,100 employees to learn whether they feel connected while working remotely. This was again before the current events, but remote employees felt they couldn’t fight for their priorities, that on-site colleagues gossiped about them, and that project changes were not communicated to them properly.

Obviously, these worries will impact how an individual reads a written communication and can affect how they perform and how they feel connected to the company culture.

Remote Communication Is Healthier for Some Employees

All that said, some employees will actually thrive in remote environments. It’s not only your less vocal colleagues, either. While remote teams seem like they could promote miscommunication or arguments, they can actually help the focus stay on the work.

When you’re on the phone or communicating through the email, you’re less likely to detect annoyances, including eye-rolling and other cues, which allow you to focus on the work and the work's content.

Remote employees can express their frustration without others noticing and move along in the work process without creating internal issues or causing a negative reaction.

Half the battle of reducing and resolving conflicts within remote teams is quite simply enhancing communication and employee confidence within the organization. Remote work isn’t why conflicts occur, though it can lead to increased confusion when not managed correctly.

7 Steps to Manage Conflict in Remote Teams

Conflicts and conflict resolution are part of every company. It’s very human, and companies are made up of humans, so there’s no avoiding it completely. If you react quickly and take concrete steps to find solutions, you, your team, and your company will be in a better position than hoping interpersonal or interdepartmental conflicts will resolve themselves.

Identify Gaps in Communication or Sources of Uncertainty

Start by identifying where remote communication is failing and what sources of conflict are common in your organization. These four common factors tend to lead to conflict in the remote workplace:

You may notice many of these sources of conflict intertwine. For example, a remote employee who does not receive the communication they need for a project leaves them uncertain about their role and overall goals.

Once you have the conflict source, you can take steps to solve it and ideally prevent it in the future.

Train Managers to Look for Behavioral Changes

Managers play a key role in conflict escalation and resolution. Unsurprisingly, those trained to identify and solve conflicts will be better off than those who cannot identify the symptoms. Not only will management fair better with some instruction, training, and insight into their teams, so will the team dynamic, the company, and the bottom line.

It can be helpful to watch for behavioral changes, as these may indicate a miscommunication is occurring, and conflict management may be necessary. A few examples of behavior changes include:

Much like you’d lean on physical cues to signal crucial changes in behavior while in-person, while these cues can’t replace casual, in-person contact, they are important to recognize.

We know you’re very busy and don’t always have time to notice small behavioral changes. However, noticing and addressing these changes can prevent major problems (like project delays and employee turnover) from surfacing in the future.

Encourage Employees to Assume Positive Intent

Most miscommunication is caused by employee perception. Understanding this and developing trust within your team can enable them to assume positive intent. This is helpful when you’re busy on another project resulting in a lack of communication or a curt response. Rather than viewing this as a personal slight, your employees will view it with positive intent and know it’s not personal.

As the manager, it can encourage and remind your remote teams to assume the sender's intent is positive and innocent.

However, if it becomes clear that there is a problem or conflict, temporarily stop communicating. Take a step back to gain perspective. Breathe. Then consider whether involving management or another mediator is necessary to reach a solution.

Professional disagreements happen. That’s not the problem here. We want to prevent conflict if possible, then keep it from escalating to a personal fight if a disagreement does occur.

Don’t Downplay Minor Problems.

It can be tempting to avoid conflict by downplaying an issue. What you’re actually doing is setting the stage for more problems and challenges with mediation.

Consider a scenario in which an employee decides their overreacting to a perceived problem or slight, and stays silent to keep the peace. Rather than addressing the issue, they’re actually normalizing the other person’s actions while delegitimizing their own feelings. Now consider what would happen should this dynamic continue. The peace-keeping employee most likely becomes increasingly disturbed and frustrated by the non-normalized behavior.

While it can be uncomfortable to address problems, you must model for and encourage your employees to address issues. Employees should have access to communication and problem-solving training, while managers must learn how to mediate and thoroughly address issues.

Develop a Clear Process for Handling Conflict

You have processes for everything else. Well, you need one for problem-solving and conflict resolution. Like every other scenario, this sets the stage, so you’re ready when conflict arises, and no one needs to panic. A sample process for remote teams dealing with conflict includes:

  1. Identify the problem: one or more remote team members explain that they’re having a disagreement and ask to schedule time with a mediator to discuss the problem(s).
  2. Hold a small summit: the disagreeing team members work with one or more mediators to address the problems and voice their concerns. All sides listen and look for ways to clarify or compromise on the issues.
  3. Follow up in writing: once an agreement is made, team members send the terms of the compromise via email for everyone to reference in the future.

Instead of bottling up problems or escalating conflicts, this process helps the entire team learn to identify problems and cleanly handle them without turning professional disagreements personal.

When your team has a conflict resolution process to follow, employees and managers can solve issues without escalating them to the CEO.

Create Goal-Focused Conflict Plans

This one may be a surprise to you if you’re new to leading a team. Many employees believe their managers expect all workers to like each other and get along. While this utopian scenario sounds nice, it’s not likely, especially the larger your organization grows. Personality clashes occur. Therefore, creating conflict resolution strategies that are goal-oriented can go further and last longer than expecting employees to become friendly.

It helps if you clarify the end goal of conflict resolution to the business up front, rather than forcing employees to pretend they get along.

Set Up Team-Building and Engagement Opportunities

You probably know that team-building is a great way to build communication and foster a group mentality in your organization. If you’re new to managing a remote workforce, you may be at a loss how this translates into a virtual world. One way to encourage team-building is to ensure your remote employees are involved in weekly updates, cross-department meetings, regular check-ins, and maybe even a water-cooler talk time to let people meet and chat about things other than work if they have a moment in their day.

One easy way to encourage engagement is during your weekly updates. Even if it takes less than 15 minutes, open with an ice breaker question (“what are you reading/watching/listening to this week?”) and give your remote team space to ask questions and learn after the updates. It’s easy to overlook, but these calls are essential for making your remote employees feel like they’re part of the team.

How Omnia Can Help

Omnia offers an easy-to-implement behavioral assessment so you can get started right away. Results are instant, digestible, and actionable. If you want even more insight, our team can provide you with an in-depth analysis of your assessment data. Remember: we’re here to help you improve your hiring and interview process so that your company continues to thrive!

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