(Team) conflict management: what you need to know

Hi @reeflings, I’m speaking on behalf of Team Conflict Management (TCM).

As TCM we’ve been mandated to make The Reef more capable in dealing with conflict in order to be more resilient as a group. How? Through making us structurally better equipped to deal with tensions and conflict.

In this post:

  • what TCM is about
  • what we have done & will be doing
  • which things you can look to us for

TCM’s focus: interpersonal conflict

As team conflict management we will be focused on interpersonal conflict. We will be developing strategies to:

  • prevent, defuse and tackle interpersonal conflict
  • detect tensions that could give rise to interpersonal conflict

When should / could you reach out to TCM?

We will always call on individual Reeflings to take personal responsibility first. The preferred route for resolving personal conflicts? That would be the people involved resolving their conflict directly, unmediated by TCM. Your first step should always be: try to talk directly to the person you’re having conflict with.

  • Not avoiding conflict can be difficult. But facing conflict within The Reef is crucial to stay connected to our shared dream of building a co-housing. Having trouble taking steps towards resolving your conflict? You can reach out to TCM to help you explore your options, figure out how to go about this.
  • Did trying to resolve it directly fail? Has your conflict already escalated? TCM can help with / find options for mediation.

What will TCM be doing exactly?

We have been discussing and working on some strategies.

4 things we have already decided to implement:

1. Closing conversation with Reeflings who decide to leave The Reef

Part of making The Reef as strong and resilient a project as possible, is recognizing threats as early on as possible. To make sure we don’t miss any, TCM will be offering people who decide to leave the project a closing conversation. This is a confidential 1-on-1 conversation between the person stepping out and one member of TCM.

The conversation is an informal one. Its aim: offering the person who’s leaving a chance to give their honest feedback. In this way we can pick up signs of conflict and potential threats to the project we might not have picked up before. A closing conversation is optional for the person leaving the project. TCM will reach out to them proactively.

2. Individually reaching out to people when we observe (potential) conflict

When TCM senses (potential) conflict, we might reach out to the Reeflings involved via PM. These are confidential 1-on-1 PMs. If we decide to reach out, we will always reach out to Reeflings on ‘all sides’ of a conflict situation.

When we reach out, TCM does not delve into the actual topic of discussion/conflict and the individual team member will not discuss their own personal opinion. The aim is to check in on how the Reefling is feeling. How are they experiencing things? Was TCM right in sensing conflict? If so, does the Reefling feel equipped to manage it themselves? Are they wanting or needing anything from TCM or the Reef?

3. Being available to be reached out to (see below)

Just like TCM can reach out to you, you can also reach out to us. How this works? See below.

4. Mailbox to flag problematic situations

Have you noticed repeated problematic behaviours or situations within The Reef? You can flag situations by dropping them in our ‘mailbox’ (Google form). The entries will be confidentially handled by a member of TCM (currently: Nic).

5. Asking continual feedback & evaluation

These strategies are a starting point. You can count on us to:

  • keep having our ear to the ground
  • be open to your feedback
  • regularly evaluate and (where needed) adjust our chosen strategies
  • test and implement new strategies when it could be beneficial for The Reef project

There are some other ideas still in the pipeline as well.

Who’s in TCM, how can I reach out & what can I expect?

Currently TCM is:

  • Chris (coordinator)
  • Lena
  • Nic

Reach out to us via a PM on edgeryders.

  • Preferably send your message to our entire team. This way it can be followed up most quickly. Address your message to @reef-conflict.
  • Feel more comfortable reaching out to a specific team member? That’s fine! You can reach out to them directly via PM on edgeryders. Do note: In this case a quick response cannot be guaranteed as it will vary on the personal availability of the specific team member.

What to expect:

  • TCM does not aim to solve your problems for you. We will listen to you. We can help clarify things that are unclear, guide you to resources, explore your options together, …
  • Everything that gets shared with TCM is treated as confidential, unless explicitly agreed upon and consented to it being made public. Any conversation you have with us will be between our team and yourself. No personal info will be disclosed to the group at large without your consent.
  • Within TCM we work with shared confidentiality. Nothing leaves our team unless agreed upon, consented to and evaluated as necessary. Within our team, it might happen that we need to discuss conversations we had 1-on-1 in our capacity as members or TCM, to improve our conflict management strategies. Within our team this type of info will be shared on a strictly need to know basis.

Big picture: collective responsibility

Tensions and conflict can and will arise in many places in The Reef. For instance: between Reeflings, regarding our governance processes, in our ways of communicating and planning. Every team will experience some tensions around their topics (governance, building, finance, etc.). Dealing with these tensions surrounding specific team related topics is not TCM’s task.

In the same way it’s not TCM’s role to create clarity and openness for the entirety of The Reef. Building and sustaining a pleasant and healthy environment will require collective, team and individual efforts. Everyone plays a part in making the Reef work. We all bear some responsibility for this. For instance:

As a group:

  • do not accept violent communication and hold people communicating in this way accountable
  • be willing to acknowledge tensions and conflict, do not avoid them or sweep them under the rug
  • be willing to make time and space for tensions to be discussed
  • commit to sitting with difficult feelings in order to then work through tensions and conflict as a group
  • make explicit which rights, obligations and expectations are connected to being a Reefling (exploring vs. associate vs. full members)

As a team:

  • communicate in a clear and transparent way about your team’s work
  • be open for and appreciative of feedback
  • be responsive when approached with questions or ideas regarding your topic by Reeflings outside of your team
  • be attentive to signs of distress around your topic, from the group or individual Reeflings
  • do not wait for help to come spontaneously. Ask for help proactively when you are in need of it

As an individual Reefling:

  • commit to communicating non-violently
  • be brave enough to (continually) speak up, even when this feels difficult to do
  • get familiar with our working methods and governance type if you aren’t yet. This can already bring clarity on which moments are suitable or unsuitable for open discussion, brainstorming, etc.
  • be proactive and ask for the suitable place for your question / idea / feeling to be discussed, if it’s not clear to you where to go for this. For example: You can reach out to your buddy.
  • alternatively, reach out to any team to bring up whatever idea / issue / feeling connected to their team’s expertise. You are fully entitled to. How? Address the relevant team via edgeryders. Do this via their team group (@reef-TEAMNAME). This way you reach all team members at once. This works for mentions in topics on edgeryders and for PMs on edgeryders. There’s an overview of all Reef groups.
  • be honest about your general availability. Are you able and/or willing to manage your time so that you can participate in and contribute to the Reef project in a way that fulfills the minimum expectations for Reeflings? It is essential that you communicate this.
  • take on an active role in the project. The Reef is not a conceptual exercise. It is a matter of everyone, including yourself, putting in the time and work on a regular basis to make our shared dream materialize.

Of course you can expect TCM to keep the importance of clarity, openness, non-violent communication, etc. on everyone’s mind. We will also keep having our ear to the ground and where needed bring unspoken tensions and conflict that concern the group into the light so we can address and work through them as a group.

Feedback on or feelings about the actions in post?

Let us know!


Thank you @Nic - I’m just reading your post for the first time now, and I think its incredibly important to have this in place. Thanks for the work :slight_smile:


this is very important. great work! i wish every reefling lot’s of courage to speak up

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Hi Nic, many thanks for this post. I think it is very necessary. After this last weekend, I think I have learned some lessons and I hope in the future I’ll be better at tackling feelings like guilt, disappointment or frustration. I would like to suggest to Team Conflict to join other Team meetings from time to time and allocate some time to talk about views/feelings about the project and/or struggles. I think the small setting of the different groups represent a good setting to have a short but meaningful discussion to express feelings and views about the project. Personally, I have the feeling that sometimes some things remain unsaid because it does not feel appropriate or the meeting we are having does not feel the right place -and there is of course group pressure, as in any other group, to not create trouble. I think it can be an idea that, e.g. in Team Building, from time to time (maybe 1 every 2/3 months) someone from Team Conflict joins and we have a dedicated point for “personal catch-up”. Just an idea :slightly_smiling_face:


Thanks for sharing Maria!

In sociocracy this kind of reflection in small groups / teams is done through what they call “circle reviews”. We have never done this until now, but it’s implicitly foreseen in the planning for May. I am planning a post on the planning for April and May, so that this becomes more transparent to everyone.


Really good idea to make this explicit, @Lee. Because, for me personally, this is the first time I’m hearing about this. I didn’t know this was already in the planning, but also I didn’t even know we did anything like this in principle. That’s very good info to have! Thanks for bringing this up.

It’s surprising to me (kind of shocking actually) that this info hasn’t reached me before now. It sounds very relevant to what my team has been discussing and working on. So it’d love to figure out where our info flow is malfunctioning:

  • Since when has this been implicitely foreseen?
  • Where and with whom was this discussed/agreed on?

Btw, sounds like this could’ve been an answer to my reflection on Sunday. Because that sounds like one step to what I was hoping would be offered to the group: a time and place to be self-reflective and show an real openess to feedback :slight_smile:

Hi @Nic,

The fact that we will introduce performance reviews was included in the proposal for Team Administration that we agreed on in the plenary of 24 January. In the introduction of that proposal it was also mentioned that we will also do circle reviews around the same time.

This was then picked up in a bilateral meeting between Chris and myself some 10 days ago, in preparation of the next Coordination Group meeting. The notes of that can be found in the “bilaterals” folder.

I am guessing that you come from a genuine desire to improve things in The Reef? You’ll tell me when we meet next. From my side I’d like to be honest that I feel very sad, tired, demotivated and even unsafe when I read words like “shocked” and “malfunctioning”, because I put so much time in The Reef that it comes at the expense of self-care. And so when I read a message like this my need for collaboration, for being seen and also that for acceptance of small imperfections goes largely unfulfilled. Would you be willing to have a talk about this over a coffee?

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Hey @Lee, I’m sorry to read my message made you feel sad, tired, demotivated and unsafe. Please believe this was not at all my intent. On the contrary, I really thought well about how to phrase my message so that it would be as clear as possible, to avoid giving off a feeling of anything other than my genuine reaction (surprise, shock) and wish to not jump to conclusions, but instead ask for clarification to understand what really happened.

If this helps, I think we’re in the same boat, but maybe just opposite ends. I’ve also been feeling sad, tired, demotivated and unsafe. I’ve observed these emotions often peak when I don’t understand where things come from, what happened or when something has been decided (or by whom). In these moments I feel very lost and powerless, and that’s not a very safe place to be when you’re in an ambitious social & financial project. I believe it’ll help me to ask for clarification more often. So that’s what I’m doing, and that’s where these questions came from. I’m very open to learning how to communicate them in ways that don’t trigger unhelpful emotions in yourself. So thank you for explaining how this message made you feel. I appreciate it. Let’s go get that coffee soon. I’ll text you privately.

Thanks for the explanation ow where this was decided. I went back to the plenary minutes and I found “The Group Coordinator and the Treasurer will be invited to take part in a performance review. For the Back-up and the Secretary it will be optional.” Is this what you were referring to? I think we might be talking about different things after all, or I interpreted ‘performance’ review in a very different way in January.

From what I understood @MariaAM was talking about time for any Reefling to talk about views/feelings about the project and/or struggles. When I read ‘performance review’ I think more along the lines of evaluation (good/not good) and task based (did or didn’t achieve goals that were set). Sound like very different conversations. But maybe I’m misinterpreting what The Reef means with performance reviews. Is this something that might be briefly clarified at the start of a next plenary?

This is because it hasn’t happened yet, and hasn’t been fully developed and formulated enough to put out to the group.

I don’t think it is.

This has been discussed in Team Governance and Working Methods, who are responsible for implementing sociocratic values. There is a whole chapter in ‘Many voices, one song’ about the importance of feedback, and elsewhere. This is ‘foreseen’ as another step in that process.

The review process is not about focussing on individuals, but on roles and circles/teams. It’s about gathering feedback regarding the way that we are operating together, rather than focussing on specific people. Obviously individual issues may come up in the process, but in general, circle reviews are meant to be about how members of a team function collectively. The role reviews obviously focus on an individual, purely because they are 1-person jobs.

I think this had already been established the day before, at the end of the personal commitments discussion, when we all agreed to set up 1-on-1s between full members and associate members to do exactly this. And if I remember correctly, you told me that you didn’t need an answer to your reflection on Sunday, but an opportunity to be heard. If you had wanted your reflection to lead to a discussion and actual strategies, it would have had to become a part of the agenda in a completely different way. I was under the impression that we were super clear about that when we discussed it earlier.

This is certainly important, and the 1-on-1s in the coming week or so will be a good starting point. I also believe that further developing the buddy system will play a big part in addressing this.

This is absolutely not the aim of these reviews (see above).

The review process will be clarified by Team Governance and Working Methods as soon as we find time to devote the appropriate amount of energy and attention to presenting it properly. The high volume of tasks and proposals recently leading to the last plenary and the Reeflings weekend has meant that it temporarily slipped down the to-do list. The underlying concept of circle and role reviews is not particularly controversial or something to be wary of. It is a normal function of sociocratic organisations to gather feedback and harness group intelligence.


I thought I was on that job :slight_smile: Let’s have a chat about it soon…

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