The five main causes of conflict in distributed teams – and how to manage them

Written by Gihan Perera Saturday 22 May 2021
What causes conflict in distributed teams and what steps should managers take to lead their remote teams effectively?
Woman working on a laptop, worn out and struggling with a problem

What causes conflict?

In a distributed, virtual team, your team members are working in different locations, sometimes even different time zones, speaking different languages, and coming from different cultures.

They don’t have the same personal rapport as in-office teams; they only collaborate using digital tools, and they might feel isolated and alone. All of this means you must take even more care to manage conflict when it arises. The most important step is to identify the cause of the conflict, so you can choose your role.

Broadly, there are five causes of conflict:

  1. Information – Something was missing, incomplete or ambiguous.
  2. Environment – Something in the environment leads to the conflict.
  3. Skills – People lack the appropriate skills for doing their work.
  4. Values – A clash of personal values leads to conflict.
  5. Identity – The participants' sense of identity puts them at odds with each other.

Let's take a look at each, and the techniques that work best for managing them.

Want to learn more about managing conflict at work?


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