The signs of poor teamwork and what to do about it.

If you are experiencing 4 or more of the following issues in your business, it’s time to take corrective action.

  1. Frustration: Limited opportunities for personal expression and satisfaction can breed frustration, particularly in larger businesses. Individuals may struggle to see how their needs and aspirations can be met, resulting in a loss of inspiration and a lack of commitment and motivation essential for effective teamwork.
  2. Secrecy and Retaliation: When open expression is hindered, employees may resort to informal discussions in corridors, restrooms, parking lots, etc. This clandestine ‘chat’ serves as a telling sign of organisational ill-health. Mistakes are not viewed as chances for learning but rather as grounds for punishing those responsible.
  3. Unhealthy Competition: Distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy competition is crucial. The latter, marked by backbiting and political maneuvering, creates a divisive atmosphere where departments vie for supremacy. This leads to missed opportunities, with staff facing organisational barriers hindering collaboration and development.
  4. Sour Expressions: Effective teamwork fosters happiness, and a visitor can swiftly discern whether a workplace is a joyful one. Positive expressions are indicative of a conducive environment for teamwork.
  5. Unproductive Meetings: Meetings should harness the collective skills of a group for tackling shared challenges or opportunities. Ineffective meetings, where contributions are limited, and managers use the occasion to impose rules rather than utilise team resources, signal a breakdown in teamwork.
  6. Poor Relationships Between Management and Staff: Trust and open communication are vital in fostering real teamwork. In organisations where employees cannot confide in or trust their managers, and interactions remain superficial, effective teamwork is unlikely.
  7. Stagnation in Development: Successful teams invest time in self-development, but perceived time pressures or leadership lacking the necessary skills often hinder progress. Poorly defined roles within and between teams can result in double-handling or tasks left incomplete.
  8. Poor Attitude to External Help: Ineffective teams may resist external assistance due to fear of exposing the severity of their situation. Conversely, effective teams use external help constructively while maintaining ownership of the problem.
  9. Lack of Creativity: Creativity thrives in an environment of personal freedom and support. Poor teamwork stifles innovation, resulting in a scarcity of new ideas.
  10. Lack of Cooperation: In organisations with poor teamwork, individuals tend to work in isolation, hindering the exchange of assistance among colleagues.


So, what can be done to improve teamwork?

Addressing poor teamwork requires a comprehensive approach to foster a collaborative and positive work environment. Here are some actions that can be taken to deal with the symptoms outlined above:

  1. Foster Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication channels within the organisation. Establish forums for team members to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas freely. A monthly check-in between team leaders and staff is very effective.
  2. Promote Team Building: Organise team-building activities and workshops to strengthen interpersonal relationships, build trust, and enhance collaboration among team members.
  3. Implement Conflict Resolution Strategies: Develop and communicate clear conflict resolution strategies to address disagreements or issues promptly, ensuring they are resolved constructively rather than leading to grumbling or retaliation.
  4. Establish Clear Goals and Expectations: Clearly define team goals, roles, and expectations. This clarity helps in reducing unhealthy competition and ensures that everyone is aligned towards common objectives.
  5. Encourage a Positive Work Culture: Cultivate a positive and inclusive work culture where creativity is valued, and individuals feel supported in expressing their ideas without fear of criticism.
  6. Provide Leadership Training: Offer leadership training programs to equip team leaders with the necessary skills to manage teams effectively, including conflict resolution, communication, and fostering a positive work environment.
  7. Conduct Productive Meetings: Train leaders and team members on effective meeting management, ensuring that meetings are collaborative, inclusive, and focused on problem-solving rather than rule imposition.
  8. Promote Professional Development: Create opportunities for professional development. This ensures that teams can continuously improve and stay engaged.
  9. Embrace External Support: Encourage a positive attitude towards seeking external help when needed. External consultants or mentors can provide fresh perspectives and guidance without fear of judgment.
  10. Recognise and Reward Teamwork: Implement a recognition and rewards system that acknowledges and celebrates successful teamwork. This reinforces a culture where collaboration is valued and appreciated.
  11. Establish Mentorship Programs: Foster mentorship programs to promote knowledge sharing, skill development, and a sense of community among team members.
  12. Monitor Organisational Health: Regularly “take the pulse” of the team through employee surveys, feedback sessions, and other tools to identify and address potential issues proactively.

By implementing these actions, organisations can effectively mitigate the symptoms of poor teamwork and create an environment of collaboration, innovation, and overall success. The most important part of creating a culture of positive teamwork is the commitment of senior managers to establish and maintain regular open, honest, accurate and disciplined communication amongst all team members.


Chris Lambert