Tackling teamwork breakdown

Tees Business Digital Media Pack

tony green

Inspirational speaker Tony Green is a former senior police officer who also fought into the Falklands. Here, in his role as the Hartlepool-based Commercial Commando, he discusses ways to deal with a difficult member of a team…

Team-work! Two mono-syllabic English words which are easily said. Too easy, in fact.

Everyone subscribes to it, endorses it, promotes it and allege they embrace it. Managers proclaim their expertise in team-work and point to all manner of performance indicators to evidence their success.

And yet…there are times, sadly, when even the most successful of teams can succumb to hubris or internal pressures: perhaps to the overwhelming belief that they and they alone have the solution to the problem or that a team member isn’t pulling their weight.

Therein lies disaster. When things, issues, tasks (call them what you will) and cohesion break down teams can fracture, members retreat into silos or cliques and some become adept at undermining the team objective.

At this point, the aforementioned manager has to step up to the plate, survey the damage, identify the issues and begin to remedy the situation.

Some managers will be in something of a quandary and, unwittingly, will also be following a proven coping mechanism. They will, when dealing with it and assuming they have the experience, go into “In” reflective mode which simply means they will fall back on their previous life and work episodes, recognise they have been in difficulties before (haven’t we all?) and, drawing on their experience then, deal with the task before them in a calm and rational manner.

When the wheel is well and truly reattached they can then go into the “On” reflective phase. This includes mulling it over at length, peering into the dark crannies of the decision-making process and teasing out any errors in their performance to ensure a more polished reaction in the event of a reoccurrence.

Let’s assume the problem was one of strife within the workplace between team members. Remember, managers are also team members and players and can also be subjected to friction. Any friction can have a negative impact on the team’s goals. The manager’s role is to neutralise it and keep the team producing the outputs necessary to ensure commercial survival.

So what to do? Below are some of the tactics a savvy manager can use when dealing with difficult members of the team:

1. Accommodate. If the (alleged) grievance isn’t that important, accommodate it. This is normally a short-term solution and will need to be reviewed within a fixed timescale.

2. Avoid. If WW3 isn’t required, don’t start it. Ask yourself whether the conduct requires a belligerent response? Is it really that important? Agree to disagree. Meet up and discuss if it helps.

3. Compromise. This requires skill on the manager’s part because giving as well as taking may be necessary. Where is the “centre of gravity” of the problem? Where is the balance? Once identified avoid the “tipping point” that may force the wrong decision.

4. Collaboration. Work with the other party to find the solution. Remember Sir Winston Churchill’s dictum that “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.” Sometimes the other party may have the solution worked out. Ask them what they want or would do?

5. Non-negotiable. Sadly, sometimes the only solution is enforcement of your will. You cannot cross the Rubicon or maybe the other party has crossed the line in the sand. Either way, on occasions some matters are not up for negotiation. Ultimately, that is a question for the manager who is in possession of all the facts.

The above are simply some of the remedies an astute and artful manager could employ to reduce inter-team turbulence and keep the business healthy in terms of team output.

Tony Green
Commercial Commando


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