In the upheaval of the 2020 pandemic, hybrid offices are the new normal. Some team members are working from home, some have returned to the office, some are doing both, and some never left. With this new workplace comes new opportunities for conflict and confusion as we encounter new barriers. Delayed response times, new schedules, and the added stress of family members at the home office are all contributing factors to conflict.
Although the workplace is still in flux, we must know how to manage our team regardless of their location. One key aspect of a healthy team is productive conflict. Everything DiSC® defines conflict as “a difference of opinions involving strong emotions.”
Unhealthy conflict is mean-spirited and drags a whole team down.
Productive conflict is the positive and healthy exchange between people with different ideas and opinions. Instead of feeling attacked, frustrated, or defensive, team members who engage in productive conflict feel heard, respected, and encouraged. Productive conflict leads to a more cohesive team and a stronger plan shaped by multiple perspectives.
Here are 2 practical ways to invite productive conflict in your hybrid work environment:
- Openly talk about conflict
Some individuals are comfortable with conflict, and others desperately want to avoid conflict. In a hybrid work environment, it’s essential to set some ground rules. How will your team engage in productive conflict?
Consider holding a team meeting. Each person could be asked to share: when do you like to engage in conflict, and what holds you back from engaging in conflict? Consider defining conflict as a team—what qualifies as conflict?
Our past experiences and how we handle ourselves in conflict also comes into play. Some things are stressful for some people and not others based on their past experience. If you had a positive outcome from conflict, this impacts how you see it in the future, and vice versa. As a team, recognize that conflict is inevitable. Productive conflict is desirable, and possible.
- Actively build trust
It’s hard to have productive conflict if you don’t trust one another. Trust is the foundation of a team. In order to work together you need to have trust, so that if you’re debating ideas it doesn’t become personal. Teams who excel in productive conflict already have that trust in place. They’re not worried that conflict is a personal attack—they’re just focused on the idea and how they can evaluate or take it to the next level.
This is vital with hybrid teams. Have we continued to build trust? Or have we assumed it’s already there because it was there a year ago? Many times we fail to recognize that trust has been eroded slightly. We’re not spending time together, having casual conversations. Things are set up differently than they were a year ago: everything now fits within a 30 minute block on our calendar. If you used to be together 5 days a week, and now it’s one day a month, we lose our sense of connection.
There’s unwritten rules of conflict when you’re together in person, but things get fuzzier in a hybrid work environment. Here are some practical steps you can take with your team:
- Commit to hearing every voice. Tell your team, “We’re going to go around the table and make sure everyone’s voice is heard before we make a decision.”
- Assume positive intent. Encourage your team to stay focused on the issue at hand and not take things personally.
- Hold each other accountable. If you notice a team member engaging in unhealthy conflict, address it immediately.
- Create a safe space. If you notice team members retreating from conversation, it is your job to create a safe place to invite them back into the conversation. Figure out why they feel attacked and how to address their concerns.
Strong teams actively engage in productive conflict, and strong leaders foster an environment where productive conflict is welcomed. To learn more about how your team can grow in the area of productive conflict, consider an all-team Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict program from a member of our coaching staff. We’ll help each person recognize their default response and how that can inform productive conflict. For leaders, we recommend The Exceptional Leader™ program, which includes a DiSC® profile assessment.
Still have questions? Contact us to learn more.