How to Address Tension on Your Team

When working on a team, it is inevitable that you may encounter tension amongst team members or ideas. While the leader may not be directly involved in tension, it is their responsibility to quickly address the tension and ensure that the conflict is not detrimental to the team or productivity.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the best approach to resolving conflict is allowing employees to reach a resolution, and the leader can help coach the employees to arrive at the resolution. Here are a few tips to help facilitate a resolution:

1) Gauge the level of conflict and emotion

Prior to intervening, the team leader should observe the conflict. If the conflict is a trivial disagreement and is not affecting morale or productivity, disagreement can be positive and lead to enlightened discussions. In cases where the leader observes visual frustration, decreased productivity, personal attacks, and discomfort among the team, that is cause for intervening and crafting a solution.

2) Understand all perspectives

Whether it’s meeting with team members individually or having an open discussion, the first step in resolving conflict is to make sure each member feels heard. The team member should have the opportunity to voice their perspective in a professional manner and allow for their thoughts to be considered.

3) Ask probing follow-up questions

After the leader has heard the different perspectives, the leader can begin asking follow-up questions with the intention of better understanding the view. The goal of the follow up questions is to discover the underlying reason behind the conflict, and to begin the process of finding the flexibility for each team member to find common ground. This follow up question phase can be used to begin asking for concessions from each side to see if the team members can both agree to a resolution.

4) Use authority to make decision

If the open discussion between team members does not resolve the conflict and it appears the team members are not able to come to an agreement, the leader should use their authority to make the decision. This decision must be clearly communicated and the team members must hear the rationale behind the decision. By explaining the decision clearly and thoughtfully, this communicates to the team members that it is not a personal decision or way of taking sides, but rather the best decision for progress.


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