Office politics can cripple businesses and cause undue stress for employees and managers alike. What’s most frustrating is the fact that issues within a team are often avoidable and just as easily fixed.
Some industries benefit from rather convenient ways of bringing people together, but if you don’t have quite the same product or service to play with, you have to get back to the basics of team dynamics.
I’ve spent a great deal of time nurturing small teams and ensuring they work cohesively. The secret sauce I’ve always relied on is happiness; if your team is happy and enjoy working with one another, they’ll be productive.
I’d like to share with you my tips for bringing teams together and resolving issues.
Conflict often arises because people don’t think they’re being listened to. Prove that you’re a good listener by having regular chats with staff and, when you spot someone acting grumpily, ask for a quiet, gentle word away from everyone else.
Break down physical barriers
Do you have multiple teams divided by walls or partitions? Are those walls and partitions really required? Conflict can arise between teams when the environment in which they work divides them. Sometimes, division is necessary, but if you’re a small business, investigate the option of an open plan working space.
Arrange regular excursions
Before you skip this one, I’m not suggesting you take the team to Thailand for a couple of weeks! More a regular treat such as a meal out or a spot of go karting. Even joint customer visits can work wonders when it comes to team bonding and the avoidance of conflict.
Reward teams, not just individuals
Ever thought of doing a team review alongside the usual employee reviews? Doing so will bring them together and often forces staff to tackle any issues head on and face-to-face. It’ll also be another example of you listening – this time to the team as a single entity.
Let’s say you have two staff members at loggerheads. The chances are they’ll have two very different opinions or views on the same subject. Get them together and kick off a brainstorming session. You’ll kill two birds with one stone; they’ll gradually learn to work with one another and discover that there is always a mutually-beneficial solution.
Put strict email usage rules in place
Email can cause undue stress and – you guessed it – conflict within teams. Messages get missed, responses are often slow and team members spend more time emailing when they should be picking up the phone. Set everyone the challenge of only checking their emails three times per day at specific times and for a duration of only 30 minutes each time. Happiness will follow – I promise!
Keep in mind cultural differences
The beauty of the planet we inhabit is that each and every one of us is different. As a result, you may have an office containing people from all manner of diverse cultures, backgrounds and countries. Small cliques may form amongst those from similar backgrounds, which is fine until they isolate themselves. Help them avoid ostracization by mixing the teams up and encouraging a “we’re all in this together” culture.
Ensure everyone has equal learning opportunities
Team issues sometimes stem from gaps in knowledge and competency on behalf of certain team members. This may manifest itself as ultra-defensiveness and a tendency to enter conflict, so it’s important you give everyone an equal opportunity to learn. If you spot knowledge gaps – fill them.
So many team issues relate to poor communication or an unwillingness to communicate at all. Follow the above steps and you’ll build a vibrant team which loves working as one.