Difficult Work Relationships

What to do when communications breakdown amongst your team.

We have all had to deal with it, that one coworker who is difficult to get along with. Maybe it is their personality that rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it is their lack of communication skills that makes them hard to interact with. Whatever the case maybe you just are not able to connect with them. However, the fact that you need to see them every day makes you push past the annoyances and force yourself to engage them, because its part of your job. But what happens now when most of the team is remote and your tolerance runs out?


A recent study from MyPerfectResume shines a harsh light on grievances between remote workers and how those grievances can act as a tinderbox in a distanced and potentially fragile work environment:

  • 81 percent of remote professionals have experienced workplace conflict.

  • 46 percent use a work messaging app for their arguments.

  • Nearly 2 in 3 workers (65 percent) have experienced conflict with their co-workers—19 percent with their direct manager, 11 percent with an external manager and 5 percent with an employee working at another company.

  • The cause of conflict came from "lack of transparency/honesty about something important," according to 18 percent of respondents; a "clash of values," said 9 percent; or a "false accusation," said 2 percent.

  • More than one-third of respondents (36 percent) felt that their bosses were too aggressive in their texts.

  • After enduring virtual conflict with a co-worker or a boss, 39 percent of respondents said they wanted to leave or left their jobs due to the problem.

So, with increased chances for miscommunications and the excuse of “I have to see this person everyday” removed how do you manage employees that just might not get along? There are several steps you as a leader can take to keep the team together and focused on the goal at hand.

When disagreements breakout amongst your team, take a proactive approach and reach out the involved parties individually to determine what went wrong. Is this a simple misunderstanding? Did someone send out communications with their caps on when they were not really shouting? Discuss with the team members how they see the issue being resolved. They are going to be able to provide the best insight on how to repair the issues and move forward.


If you have team members that you are aware do not “click” being proactive about creating opportunities to interact might be key. This does not mean forcing them to be on that group project together unless their roles require it. Let us face it group project did not resolve issues for us in high school and they probably are not the answer now either. You can however encourage engagement by holding weekly meetings with the entire team so that everyone can familiarize themselves with how others prefer to communicate. By focusing everyone on the common goals and working on a mutual plan you are bringing them together and uniting the group.

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And while no one probably wants another zoom meeting on their calendar, holding a monthly check in with your staff is a good way to learn of any concerns early on and begin managing them before they erupt.

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