Working together
The last two chapters looked at how individuals can harm the unity of the
team if you don’t take action to prevent the damage. But many problems
that threaten the team arise between two or more members of it. This
chapter addresses the following areas:
how to deal with conflict between two members of the team
what to do if your team breaks up into factions
how to contain gossip
team stress.
Conflict in the team
ou are in a position to prevent a good deal of conflict from ever aris-
ing in your team. If you have taken the action we have already covered
in this book, you will have eliminated the possibility of conflict in many
areas where it can arise in less well-led teams than your own. You will
reduce the chance of conflict between team members if you:
make sure that everyone is in a functional role and a team role that
suits them (see Chapter 1);
make sure that everyone is well motivated, as an individual and as a
team player (Chapter 2);
ensure that all your team members are clear about their objectives,
both personal and collective (Chapter 2);
do everything you can to minimise internal conflict within people
who are stressed or suffering personal problems (Chapter 3);
create a culture in which people feel able to come and talk to you
when they are having problems (Chapter 3);
ease personality problems in the team by reducing the destructive
effects of difficult people (Chapter 4).
Once you’ve done all this, you deserve never to have to deal with con-
flict between team members. But we all know real life’s not like that.
Training your team in teamwork skills
There are certain skills that we’ve covered already that your team mem-
bers will need to acquire. In effect you have to train them to work as a
team; like any other aspect of their work there are skills they will need
to learn so that they can prevent conflict. Conflict between team mem-
bers most commonly happens when:
1. One person or group feels they are doing an unfair share of the
work: either because they are (or believe they are) doing more than
they should have to, or because they have been allocated tasks that
are less inspiring, important or valuable than others’ tasks.
2. One person or group feels excluded from the team: because (they
feel) they are not listened to, not kept informed or not consulted on
team decisions.
3. There is a straightforward personality clash between team
Different teamwork skills are needed to prevent each of these problems
arising, so let’s go through them in turn and outline the key lessons in
each case.
Unfair workload
The key lessons are:
everyone should accept that the object of the exercise is to complete
the tasks and projects effectively. Tasks are only allocated in order to
exploit everyone’s strengths and maximise the team’s performance.
So if for any reason the most effective way to get the job done some-
times involves helping out on a task allocated to someone else,
everyone (including you, of course) should be willing to do that;
everyone should co-operate in seeing that tasks are allocated fairly,
in terms of both the amount of work and the interest team members
have in doing it. Often one person will hate a job that another one
enjoys, and sometimes a task will come up that everyone hates; of
course it still has to be done, but the team should make sure it isn’t
always the same person who gets lumbered with it. It’s important
not only that no one is unfairly loaded with work, but also that no
one feels they are. This will still lead to conflict, regardless of whether
it’s really the case or not.
Feeling of exclusion
The key lessons are:
everyone should feel able to express a view about any aspect of the
team’s work, not only the area they work in. All team members
should encourage each other in this;
all information which could be relevant to the team and its work
should be shared with everyone – no one should keep information to
during team meetings and discussions, people should be encouraged
to say if they are unclear about anything;
there should be a team rule that no idea is sacred – anyone is enti-
tled to question or to suggest alternatives. This should go hand in
hand with a second team rule – when discussing ideas, anything
goes. All ideas should be welcomed, and treated with respect so
people always feel comfortable about expressing their views;
every time someone makes a suggestion, the rest of the group
should hear them out before they start to disagree.

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