Team dynamics is the reason why some teams go straight to the top, while others struggle or sink to the bottom.
Team dynamics are the behavioural relationships between the members of a team.
And how a team communicates, interacts, and works together has a massive impact on how successful that team will be.
And don’t we all know that dealing with human behavior is always tricky. Let’s face it, how do you control how people respond to one another?
But, there are things to watch out for. And if you know them, it will help you to best position your team to be successful.
How you actually do that will look different depending on the nature of your company and your work.
Below are five potential pitfalls for team dynamics that if you manage to avoid will help you develop a winning team:
Turn Every Situation Into A Win-Win
You are going to deal with adverse situations at work. It’s a fact of life.
People will try to pass work off to you that they should be doing themselves. Or they will rope you into the wrong side of office politics.
The worst way to handle this is to blow up and get angry. This puts you on the defensive, and it’s difficult to think rationally when this happens.
It also can lead the way into saying something that you’ll regret later. A better approach is to find ways to make the situation a win-win for everyone involved.
This may not always be easy, or even possible, but if you can make it happen, it will diffuse the situation and create more harmony in the work environment.
And greater harmony improves team dynamics.
A Matter Of Perspective
The first step in looking for ways to make it a win-win is to try and see the situation from the perspective of your adversary.
Perhaps he or she is experiencing some problems at home, and it’s affected his or her judgement at work. You have to try to find out without appearing to pry.
This could be as simple as asking if the person has something they want to talk about. Even just showing that you are willing to do this can go a long way to diffuse the situation.
You could proceed to offer to take on some of the person’s workload if that is what they are struggling with.
Just make it clear that you will only do this for a short period of time, with the understanding that they need to take up the duties after such a time.
If the situation is work-related, try to work with the person to find a solution that will help them solve it.
This will take some time out of your day but having the person return to a good place is going to make this extra time worth it.
Of course, there are going to be people that no matter how much effort you put in to try and help, are going to be adversarial towards you.
If they continue to do so in a manner that is not within their right, you will need to figure out whether you want to escalate the situation with your line manager.
This should be the last course of action but may be necessary. You will likely find that most people will be receptive when they see that you both come out as winners.
Working Well In A Virtual Environment
There’s no doubt more people are working from home today than ever before. The internet has helped make that happen.
Some work for themselves and others have made arrangements to work at home either full or part-time.
This can present some challenges in working well with people that are in the office full time.
The first challenge is virtual workers are going to be the envy of their office counterparts, and that could lead to some jealousy.
You can see the negative effect this could have on team dynamics.
Managers will need to handle this situation delicately. Some jobs require the worker to be onsite.
For instance, a computer operations person may need to swap out drives, or backup tapes, etc.
Organisations should have some kind of provision that gives onsite workers incentive for not being able to work at home.
Another challenge for the virtual worker is that they need to be extremely focused to make sure they are actually getting work done.
They almost should go above and beyond what is expected of them to make sure that management maintains the trust that they are actually getting the work done.
The minute it is shown this not to be the case, it will be very difficult for employees ever to gain back that trust.
Some people are easily distracted. So they will need to set up an environment like an office that is specifically for the purpose of working at home.
These employees should close the door and make it known to their family that the situation should be treated exactly the same as if the employees were physically going into the office.
The occasional interruption is acceptable, just as it would be if the spouse called the office. But they should be kept at a minimum.
Virtual employees should also remove any kind of stimuli such as televisions, etc. as these can distract them from their work.
It is very easy to get into bad habits and hours go by with no work getting completed.
This is the quickest way to have this privilege of working from home revoked.
Virtual employees should always make themselves available whenever they are contacted by team members or management.
They should answer the phone right away, or get back to whoever called as soon as possible.
Consistent lags in communication are going to reflect poorly on the virtual worker and should be a situation that is avoided or at least, minimised.
Working With Diversity
It should come as no surprise that we are all different. And the global economy has brought together diverse cultures interspersed into the workplace.
Sometimes, this can result in the form of culture shock. Many companies offer training on how to manage diversity.
The training sets up guidelines and rules on how to behave in the workplace and what is and is not expected when certain conditions arise.
The training is usually mandatory, and human resource departments are often looked upon to monitor violations of the guidelines.
Sometimes, they may require employees to retake the training to reinforce the concepts.
Employees may feel alienated when a group of people start speaking a foreign language.
In the UK, it used to be considered rude for people to speak in different languages when there are people present that didn’t speak that language.
Today, it’s not so simple.
People from different countries usually speak their native tongues better than second languages so while working they can get more accomplished by doing so.
One way to help in this area is to ask to speak in a common language when the conversation turns casual and only speak in the native language when conducting business.
This way everyone can participate in casual conversations.
Even something as simple as foods that people of different cultures eat can cause people to feel uneasy.
It may not smell right to those unfamiliar with them, or it could be a type of food that they would never imagine eating.
Luckily, issues of food are usually much lighter than other issues and are often a great way to break the ice.
Religion can be another tricky situation since beliefs are something that people hold for much of their lives.
Even with training, it can be difficult for some people to accept religions outside of their own fully.
Many people tend to overcome these differences after working together for a while. For others, it may take more time, if at all.
It’s not just cultural issues that may come up, it can be issues across gender lines and sexual orientation.
The workplace is a much different place than it was decades ago. Behaviours and viewpoints that were acceptable in the past are no longer accepted.
Sexual preferences and sensitivity to people that are transgendered are all situations that make diversity even that much more complicated.
What people tend to find out after working with these diversities, is that people are not that much different overall.
In fact, if we search for common ground, we can establish new workplace friendships and bonds that can last a lifetime as well as learn something new in the process.
That’s Not My Job – But Maybe It Should Be
Have you or your coworkers been asked to do something and the response is “that’s not my job?”
It’s understandable as people tend to be overly busy at work these days.
This is especially true when management makes staff cuts and expects the existing team members to do more.
It may be in your best interest to make those requests a part of your job. We are in one of the most competitive job environments that we have ever been in.
This means that jobs are hard to come by and people to fill spots are plentiful.
By taking on more responsibilities, you show management that you are capable of handling extra responsibility.
And this reduces the chances of being part of any staff reductions. In fact, when cuts happen, managers know you will be there to take up the slack.
But taking on more responsibilities has other subtle benefits. You may learn new skills that you probably would not have done had you turned away the work.
Also, you will set up an environment of goodwill towards your coworkers by helping take some of their workloads.
As long as this is approached in a way that doesn’t look like you’re kissing up to management, coworkers will welcome the gesture.
And this will improve team dynamics.
One of the best ways to set yourself up for a promotion is to start doing the higher level job before you are even given the position.
This shows management that you are capable of performing that position.
You will likely need to learn some new skills when doing this. But your manager may be able to help you out with that.
You also may reduce any animosity felt towards you getting the promotion. Because fellow coworkers will already see that you are performing the duties of the job.
It will seem like a natural progression.
A Word Of Caution
One word of caution is not to take on more than you can handle. There are only so many hours in a workday.
And you don’t want to run yourself ragged that you won’t be able to perform any of your tasks.
And there has to be a point where you will have to limit any new requests that you receive for more work.
There are many benefits to taking on more work if you can handle the extra workload. You will elevate your status among your peers.
And you will show management that you are capable of bigger aspirations.
Look Within Before Passing on Blame
Teamwork is a tricky concept.
The ideal situation for a team is for everyone to get along and work together. But personalities are different and are bound to clash.
When things go wrong, some team members will automatically blame other members when in fact, they are the ones that made the error.
And this has a detrimental effect on team dynamics.
The key to avoiding this situation is to make absolutely sure that the steps you took did not lead to the problem, whatever that problem may be.
Double check facts. Or if you are on a programming team, recheck your code, to make sure that your work is not the cause.
Once you make the mistake of blaming someone else and it is later revealed that you are to blame, this is a very difficult situation to save face.
It also creates mistrust with the entire team, and possibly even the manager. It’s best to avoid this situation altogether completely.
If you are sure that you are not to blame and you know who is, it’s essential for the team members to approach the person tactfully.
And avoid any appearance of ganging up on him or her.
Otherwise, the team member may feel vulnerable, and that will likely put him or her on the defence.
This is merely a waste of time and can be avoided. If it’s a serious error, it may be wise for the team to escalate the situation for the manager to handle it.
Although the ideal situation is for the team to take charge.
You may find that some members will continually pass on blame. Even when it’s been shown time and again that they are the responsible party.
If you find a member that does this to you, the best course of action is not to get defensive yourself. Simply show them, nicely, that what you did was not the cause.
You don’t even have to mention that you know they are the cause at that moment. Discuss it with the team again.
Then try to find a way to show this person that they are the cause. If all else fails, then it becomes a management issue.
There will never be a perfect team environment. And you will almost certainly have team members who are sloppy and make constant mistakes.
This can create a challenge for the team. But by remaining calm and focused on solving whatever the problem is, the team can move forward with the project.
Team dynamics will look different in each team depending on the industry. This set of pitfalls is helpful for understanding the DNA of a successful team.
If you want to learn more about team dynamics and building successful teams then leave a comment.