Remote Team Conflict Resolution

James Hewett

Senior Engineering Manager at Monzo Bank



During a daily stand-up, it emerged that an engineer had assigned a task to a remote engineer without telling him and gone on leave. We were having trouble with the remote engineer's Skype connection, so he hung up to use Slack. Thinking he couldn't be heard, he proceeded to insult the engineer who had assigned the task. The outburst was picked up by a co-located remote engineer's mic and heard by the team.

Actions taken

"Those I spoke to believed it was unprofessional, not acceptable, but out of character."

The first I knew about it was when members of the team contacted me. Those I spoke to believed it was unprofessional, not acceptable, but out of character. They were worried that the team would now exclude the distributed engineers. My thoughts mirrored this, unprofessional but out of character. I decided that I needed to speak to him and then to the team.

The engineer was embarrassed and apologetic. He explained that he did not have a problem with the engineer, enjoyed working with him, and respected him. He let his frustration with the situation get the better of him after a poor night's sleep and a stressful morning. I listened to what he had to say and let him know that while out of character it wasn't acceptable. Together we agreed on a plan of action to regain the team's trust and respect.

When I spoke to the team, the consensus was that it was out-of-character but also out of order. I outlined the agreed actions and that he had offered to resign, but I had decided not to accept it. The team agreed, and we had a very open and honest team discussion with the engineer. The team accepted his apology, as did the engineer who was the target of his outburst.

Lessons learned

"Communication between distributed teams can be a challenge. The entire team must be proactive and communicate their tasks, progress, challenges, and expectations in a way that works for everyone. If a team member does something out-of-character, there is likely a reason. It is your job to understand and help."

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James Hewett

Senior Engineering Manager at Monzo Bank

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