Project Management

Resolving Conflict on Distributed Teams

Mark Kilby is an agile coach who, for over two decades, has cultivated more distributed, dispersed and virtual teams than co-located teams. Currently, Mark serves as an agile coach with Sonatype, a distributed agile software development company focusing on automation of software supply chains. Previously, Mark led Agile transformations, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Mark's book, From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams, is co-authored with Johanna Rothman and will be published in August 2018. A sample of the book is available now via and

Interpersonal conflict on any team can impact an entire team—and for distributed teams, it can be devastating. When remote team members are in conflict, the rest of the distributed team can only guess at how things will turn out and everyone proceeds with caution (or not at all). The remote team members in conflict can't easily walk into a private room and resolve their issues. Or can they? What if resolution is more about how we think about the conflict instead of where opposing parties are located?

If you are in conflict with someone else on a distributed team, there are a number of things you can do to help resolve the conflict.

Stop the storyteller
When you feel you have been wronged by another team member, you are better off pausing than reacting. When we react, we get into trouble jumping to conclusions, especially when we are in conflict with a team member in a remote location that we do not know well. We tell ourselves a story about the other person's intent, which is usually based on past experience. The problem is that past experience may be more about experience with other people, teams and organizations and may not necessarily be true for the current situation. So you have to stop yourself in that “storytelling” and put the emotion in check.

Rewind and replay the facts
Next, take the time to carefully think back to the events and…

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"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules."

- George Bernard Shaw