How to deal with team conflict as a leader

A yellow pen and red pen conflicting with each other.
Debate, competition of opponents, competition of ideas and opinions, on yellow paper background

Share Article

Last week, an old colleague that I have known for many years and is now more of a friend left me a voicemail that said, “Paul, I just need your help, because whether you like it or not, to me, you’ll always be my recruiter guy”. 

I called her back, and whilst I already knew that no matter how much she needed my help, there was no way I would recruit for her, but I was certainly willing to help however else I could. 

“What’s up?”, I asked. 

“Since we’ve all come back into the office more, it’s just become a complete sh*t show. People are clashing like you wouldn’t believe; you can cut the air with a knife; and I’ve had four resignations in the last two weeks. What’s even worse is that my astrologer told me there are more resignations around the corner”. 

I probably could have told her that without a crystal ball, but the mere mention of an astrologer took me back to a very memorable client meeting I’d had a long time ago when a client looked me in the eye and said something that really took me by surprise. “Actually Paul”, she had said while briefing me on a key hire for her team, “More than anything, it’s crucial that you find me a Scorpio. We need a bit more bite around here”! 

At the time I thought she was joking but she was being completely serious and I smiled as I immediately thought of what the headline on my job ad might look like: “Scorpio required to add bite to a team of obsessive Virgos while reporting to a dynamic Piscean”! 

Coming back to last week’s meeting, it turns out that the astrologer was also strongly hinting to my friend what star signs she should be looking for in her next employees. 

Now whilst I am an advocate of personality assessments, at no point would I ever encourage people to make hiring or team-based decisions according to someone’s Zodiac reference. 

Workplace conflict is inevitable, and it is up to leaders to ensure that they can handle it effectively as and when it arises.  

Dealing with team conflict can be challenging, but with the right approach, it can be resolved in a way that benefits everyone involved. And whilst there might be many possible causes of conflict in the workplace, there are also various strategies that leaders can use to manage and resolve the team drama regardless of whether the instigators are a fire, earth, air or water sign (sorry I couldn’t resist)! 

Conflict in any workplace can arise from a variety of sources, most commonly differences in opinion and personality clashes (as was the case with my friend’s business experiencing the mass exodus).  

Having said that, some of the most common causes of conflict in the workplace include communication breakdowns where poor communication can easily lead to misunderstandings; differences in values and beliefs where team members may have different values and beliefs that can result in disagreements; and personality clashes where differences in personality and work style can quickly cause tension and power struggles. 

Creating an effective team environment is vital for any organisation to succeed and more often than not there’s no opportunity for workplace conflict. 

As a leader, how can you avoid conflict in the workplace? How can you ensure that you are engendering the right culture within your team or business? What can you do to guarantee that that when someone new joins the business that the team dynamic is maintained and that everyone remains focused on a common goal?  

These are all important questions to consider. 

Juggling diverse personalities within any business can be demanding. Whilst most teams comprise of very different personality types (all of whom require sophisticated and delicate handling to ensure you maximise their full potential), it is crucial that you balance the right mix of skills, ability and personality. 

It is also important to strike the right balance in terms of roles and responsibilities and playing to each of your individual team member’s strengths.  

In other words, try not to force those who are more service driven into having to generate sales; avoid getting those who may be more sales focused too bogged down in administration; and where possible keep those who actually enjoy administration in the office as opposed to encouraging them to become more client facing. 

Similarly, when leading a group of diverse personalities, you need to understand what motivates each of your team members. Reward and recognition whether it be through financial incentives, training and development or potential promotion and career advancement, are all important considerations as you create (and maintain) a calm and effective team environment. 

Should you find yourself in a position where you are bringing new people into your business, it is important that you take into consideration the personality and characteristic differences that may already exist within your team, as well as the existing allocation of roles and responsibilities, or else you may inadvertently create a situation ripe for conflict.

Whilst workplace conflict is inevitable, unnecessary tension inside any organisation can make life unpleasant for everyone. 

A client of mine who runs a large team likes to use the phrase “on the bus” to determine whether his team are heading in the same direction. In my leadership days, I often used the phrase “all aboard the northbound train”. 

The message is the same: it’s about the importance of creating an effective team environment where everyone is striving for the same goal and each individual team member feels they are being recognised for their contribution. 

When tension does arise in the workplace, leaders need to act quickly to address it by putting on their conflict resolution hat.  

Some strategies that leaders can use to manage and resolve team conflict include: 

  • Encouraging open communication and making sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak up and that everyone feels heard. 
  • Taking the time to understand the underlying causes of any conflict. This will help you identify the best approach to resolving it. 
  • Encouraging team members to brainstorm and to see certain situations from different perspectives. This can help build empathy and understanding and can lead to a more collaborative approach to resolving the conflict. 
  • Developing a plan of action once a solution has been identified, and making sure that everyone is clear on what needs to be done and who is responsible for each task but following up regularly. This will help prevent the conflict from recurring. 

In addition to these strategies, it is important for leaders to create a workplace culture that supports open communication and collaboration and where accountability is well-defined, and expectations are clearly set. A leader should never hide from the conflict or pretend it doesn’t exist. After all, conflict is a natural part of any working team, but it can be managed and resolved in a way that benefits everyone involved.  

Remember hellomonday provides coaching and support to every leader, prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained change, reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching, and ideally helping leaders prevent conflicts from arising in the first place by building a more productive and harmonious workplace.

Get free leadership resources delivered straight to your inbox.

Sign up for our newsletter today to receive regular tips and resources. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to boost your leadership skills.

You might also like

All too often, middle managers fall into a trap of passivity, succumbing to the temptation to blame senior leadership for every setback or challenge they encounter. Instead of putting up barriers, focus on building bridges.
As we move into the new year, many leaders will be looking to enhance their leadership style and create more meaningful connections within their teams. One powerful approach certainly worth considering is radical candour. 
When operating under a remote or hybrid model, ensuring positive and transparent team dynamics and striving for easier and more effective team conversations is a priority for leaders.
Young businesswoman working from her home office setup

Get free leadership resources delivered straight to your inbox!

Sign up for our newsletter today to receive regular tips and resources. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to boost your leadership skills.