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Negotiating Conflict in the Virtual Workplace

June 23rd, 2014 by Jason Hartman | Comments Off on Negotiating Conflict in the Virtual Workplace

medium_9510813107When there’s trouble in the workplace, employees and bosses alike experience a lack of satisfaction in their work life. Negotiating these conflicts can be extremely difficult for a variety of reasons. For those in an international workplace or managing a company remotely, conflict can be especially challenging.

No matter your situation, there are some basic rules you should know to resolve conflicts. If you are working with employees who communicate via email or even video chat, the rules can be more complicated.

Structure Discussion

Conflict resolution is all about following a set structure, particularly when discussions can’t be held face to face.

  • Convening: decide how the conflict should be addressed—if you’re managing someone else’s conflict, you’ll want to decide if it is best to talk to everyone together or if it is best addressed separately.
  • Opening: in this stage, all parties will typically meet. Your goal is to provide each side the chance to make a statement about the situation. Create a safe environment for conversing by making suggestions to those involved in the conflict about how they might use the time wisely.
  • Communication: in this stage, all parties disclose legal or personal issues that might affect negotiation
  • Negotiation: in this space, you begin to work through conflict. Flexibility and innovation are crucial.
  • Closure: finally, you reach an agreement or way of dealing that everyone agrees too.


Use this structure to search for a solution in which everyone wins, but acknowledge that sometimes this just isn’t possible. If you’re dealing with irrational people or poor listeners, the likelihood that you’ll make everyone happy decreases.

Work toward a compromise by both parties and prepare them to offer something up, if only symbolically.

Keep It Off Social Media

In order to make the most of the above structure, it is essential to communicate in a clear, articulate way. Typically, social media is not the place for this. Conflicts are generally handled best when they’re kept between the parties involved—and not broadcast for everyone across the internet to see.

If you’re operating remotely, it might be tempting to handle problems by posting about them in a Facebook group or as part of your status. Remember that phones and Skype are great alternatives—and much more professional and appropriate.

It’s also a good idea to keep your frustrations about workplace conflict under wraps on social media. Often, we’re “friends” with at least one coworker, and word travels fast.

(photo credit: Neil. Moralee via photopin cc)

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