Is your team not performing as well as you know they are capable of? Does something feel off for you in your workplace? Or, did something get in the way of your team’s functionality? These are workplace team derailers. A derailer is something that throws you off track.
This article explains some of the more commonly found derailers that might be affecting your team, and the tools needed to help get everything back on track!
Here are some common workplace team derailers you might find in your workplace and how to fix them:
Miscommunications, frustration, and hurt feelings all create unnecessary interpersonal conflicts. These interpersonal workplace conflicts quickly escalate into toxic patterns and behaviours, which create costly mistakes and impede productivity. Miscommunication also creates a downward spiral of ineffectiveness and job dissatisfaction.
Prioritizing Conformity vs Diversity
For a team to grow and progress it needs diversity, which fosters creativity and robust problem solving. When a team doesn’t accept differences, it lessens the team’s intelligence. People become reluctant to voice opinions that may go against the norm, conformity begins to seep in, resulting in phenomena like the dreaded “Group Think”. By prioritizing workplace conformity over diversity, you are left with a group of people who have similar life experiences, values, and learnings that will only be able to attack problems from a limited perspective.
Unclear Roles and Responsibilities
When using and maintaining a list of job positions in a company, important things such as objectives and directions will fall through the cracks. Unclear roles and responsibilities result in employees losing focus of the team’s goals and how to work effectively with each other. A team’s roles must align around their mission, otherwise they are not a team, but merely a group of people working in close proximity to one another.
Ineffective Conflict Management
People frequently view conflict as negative or destructive. Many people experience conflict as something awkward and uncomfortable, which only gets worse when we don’t know how to deal with it, and, honestly, not everyone grew up with comprehensive conflict navigation skills! Emotions cannot be “left at the door” as used to be voiced in the “command and control” era – they will come into play during each workday and your team needs to know how to deal with them. Avoiding conflicts due to the fear of people getting angry or upset is an issue in many teams. By undressing this conflict, will cause it to only fester and get worse.
Your team may be dealing with one or all of these derailers, and that can seem very overwhelming. Where to start? Don’t worry – it is normal and there are some simple yet valuable tools that will help get everything back on track. Here are two seemingly small, yet powerful practices you can put into action right away and share with your team.
1. Avoid miscommunication by really making sure to align your understanding with the others’ understanding.
Loop back and forth until you are sure you have the same image in your head. Here’s how NOT to do it:
“I need that report asap! Do you understand?”
“Yes. Got it”
Yet you haven’t actually achieved common understanding. What is missing here is the definition and mutual agreement of the what, exactly, ASAP means. Is this when I finish what I’m already working on? When do I finish with my other priorities? Or right this instant – NOW? While it might have last time meant one thing, this time it could very well mean something else. It depends on the circumstances. Uncommunicated assumptions are a pathway to miscommunication.
2. Another practice you’ll find invaluable is that of “Yes, And.”
Use your listening skills to stop trying to come up with an answer while the other person is still talking. One trick to use is to listen as though you will have to repeat back their sentence verbatim. Then, use the PAUSE. Yes, the Pause of silence – dead airspace that we are all afraid of. This is your time to formulate a response that builds on what has been articulated. We call this “yes, and”. We are all familiar with “yeah, but”. When you use the word “but” we don’t hear the “yeah” (yes) – we hear the “but”, which negates the other person’s contribution and could even be perceived as devaluing the actual person, along with their idea. In true two-way communication, we want to acknowledge what is already communicated, work with it, and build on top of it. The “yes, and” affirms and grows your ideas together. People feel heard, understood, and appreciated when this is done well. It DOES take practice and you really do need to have the intent to understand. That’s the hard bit we’ll talk about another time. You can say “yes, and” and it could still land like a “yeah, but” if that’s what you truly mean!