How to Disrupt False Team Harmony
Written by:Tara A. Collison, Ph.D.
Team harmony is a hot button topic. Naturally, everyone wants to work within a group of people who cooperate… and maybe even have fun together. Team leaders want that, too! Unfortunately, team harmony, as popular as it is, has an evil twin – false team harmony. They look very much alike, but if you pay close attention, you’ll start to notice that what you thought was team harmony doesn’t quite add up to unity or even consensus. It might actually be turmoil hiding just beneath the surface.
How to Recognize False Harmony
False harmony is a term to describe a work environment that may appear harmonious at first glance – idyllic even. Upon closer inspection, you’ll begin to notice an absence of certain things. There will be no deep discussions about obstacles or challenges, and if you investigate this absence further, you’ll find that the unspoken belief is that these kinds of discussions are not welcomed. That, of course, is why they seem so harmonious. No one is addressing the very normal issues that come hand-in-hand with working on a team. You may also notice a lack of meaningful praise and an excess of less-specific, sometimes “empty” praise.
How to Disrupt False Harmony
- Embrace generative conflict: It’s positive to have an outlet to express opposing opinions, which is why diverse ideas and perspectives should be encouraged, not suppressed. Not only is task-based or project-specific conflict normal, but it’s also productive. Generative conflict and even healthy debate can lead to a more authentically harmonious team structure. Great leaders set a tone that makes this kind of environment welcomed and expected.
- Acknowledge issues: Teams and individuals have an obligation to generate solutions, but they don’t have to do it alone. Addressing a truly complex problem is best done when you elicit help from a pool of people. Instead of concealing challenges or issues, draw attention to them. An environment where team members can ask both “Why?” and “Why not?” helps bring challenges to the surface and gives the team an opportunity to contribute. Some people more naturally see the “why” and others more naturally see the “why not.” Embracing both leads to improved outcomes.
- Understand and express emotions: Every office has a unique emotional culture, but for some, it’s a culture of avoidance. We want team members to be able to embrace and express positive and negative emotions without fear of backlash. If people are able to communicate all work-related feelings, even the less positive ones, you’ll be able to address them more quickly. This is another instance where the leader has the influence and ability to set the proper tone. As with all things, balance is key, and being able to be open and vulnerable in the moment will save you a lot of time and energy later.
Train Your Brain With Meddlers
If you would like to learn more about the importance of meaningful praise when building a truly harmonious team, visit “Three Ways to Practice Meaningful Praise.”