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What’s the real meaning of team work?

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

In many organisations team work simply means a group of people who work alongside each other, answer to the same line manager and get along. It’s the absence of conflict. It’s everyone pulling their weight and doing their bit.

What happens when someone makes a mistake that reflects badly on the team or causes a major setback in the work of the team? If a member of the team is under extra pressure due to a revised deadline, increased workload , change in home circumstances or having to deal with a situation they have no previous experience of, does any one notice, is it down to the line manager to sort out?  You really don’t know the strength of team work until it’s tested. Real teamwork involves caring  about the other members of the team, if some one is having a hard time people notice and they step into help. This is where team work overlaps with mental wellbeing and why mental welling is not just the responsibility of the line manager and HR.

Managers are best placed to spot someone having health problems or suffering stress but have they the skill and confidence to sensitively discuss this with the individual. Increased workloads are reported to be the biggest source of stress so the manager expected to support the individual is probably allocating the increased workload. The second most frequently reported cause of destructive stress is management style. The manager is not seen as supportive or understanding, is unwilling to adjust workloads, even temporarily and imposes, what appear to be arbitrary deadlines, is not interested in home circumstances or what’s involved in juggling caring responsibilities and is generally in flexible. But it’s to easy to blame line managers who may themselves be under tremendous pressure and unreasonable demands. Organisations should invest in training to give managers the skill , knowledge and confidence to have empathetic conversations with team members and signpost where appropriate to expert sources of health support.

The best managers find ways to support and take the pressure off. However this often involves other members of the team agreeing to take on some extra work or provide time and expertise , hence my staring point that real team work is where your fellow team members spot you are struggling and step in to help out ( with out you having to ask).

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