103 AcademyQ&A

How to identify tension within a team before conflict occurs?

Well, everything starts with your involvement with the team. You have to be as close as possible to the action.

  • Grab a desk and work in the same room.
  • If not possible – keep your office door open to hear people talking to each other.
  • If not possible – participate in as many team meetings as the business allows without getting out of being productive.

Your goal is tuning to the conversations and watching people communicate. It will take time but it will not be hard to identify tension – just pay attention to any change in behavior:

  • Used to grab lunch together but not anymore.
  • Used to talk but complete ignorance now.
  • Changes in face impression when being talked to.
  • Changes in voice intonations when being asked about something.
  • Reactions to the person talking or walking by – smiling, looking to another side, picking up a phone, putting headphones on.

You will be able to identify allies and enemies within the team.

As you’ve identified the problem (or problems), grab the involved people for a talk (separately) and try to understand the problem. Talk openly and express willingness to solve the problem together instead of finding the “bad one” to be punished.

Be hard on the problem and soft on the people.

There are 2 nuances:

  • The best case is having a closely-knit team. When a team is stable and solid, your involvement is not required. The team is capable of solving the problem without a manager’s help.
  • The worst case – the conflicting people belong to different teams. I found it to be particularly hard to solve. The best case is making sure employees never come to interact with each other. Talking helps in avoiding open conflicts but the tension will never disappear.


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