The trend toward virtual working began in the mid-1990s but has been accelerated beyond belief since the national lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In these situations, people continue to work together but cannot be collocated, so that each of us are separated in space, and, in international work, time too. When we are separate empathy becomes more difficult without the usual cues, and emotive discussions can sometimes feel unmanageable and unbearable. The talk presents findings from David Drabble’s PhD research into hidden discord in global teams, which explored incidents of hidden disagreements and misunderstandings in pan European and British/Chinese teams.
David presents a typology of different types of hidden discord, from repressed conflicts and undiscussed disagreements to unrealised and uncontained misunderstandings. The research finds that these incidents are necessary for the functioning of virtual groups and can present opportunities for learning and addressing underlying issues, or occasions to create splits in groups, where those with less power are scapegoated or ejected from the core group. Indeed, successfully managing these incidents can be the difference between remote interactions that are stimulating and enjoyable, and those that are avoided at all costs.