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What to do when a team just aren’t getting on

Geoff Trickey, CEO, Psychological Consultancy Ltd. and Founder - The Risk Type Compass

The range of personalities within a company can be vast. And the way in which we perceive risk and approach decision making can also be vast. So it’s no revelation that, with this vastness in mind, ‘one size fits all’ communication, conflict management and change strategies just do not work.

Imagine this scenario. You’re new in your role as an HR Manager. You can see from the get-go that there is an obvious discord within the sales team. Resentment and complaints about the manager are rife, and there’s a clear impact on motivation and wellbeing. Tasked with the role of improving relations within this group, how can you, from an HR perspective, mitigate these conflicts in attitude?

First steps

The first step is to dig deeper into the context. Without context, you can’t make effective change. How long has the team worked together? Did the discord arise following an event, a new starter or a promotion? What are the challenges each team member is facing? Talk to each individual to find out more.

In this particular scenario, it becomes clear that the decision-making style of the new manager clashes with that of his team. Two team members, who have been with the organisation for a few years, are known to be creative and spontaneous with their ideas and are used to having these green-lighted easily. In the past, they have received positive feedback on their resourcefulness from senior management, and believe this relatively new manager is blocking this chance for recognition.

This ‘thinking on their feet approach’, however, contrasts to the decision-making approach of the manager, who is more meticulous, thorough and considered in his decision-making. He likes taking a more strategic approach, taking his time deliberating and going over the finer details, which frustrates his faster paced team. More often than not, he is also the first to highlight pitfalls in new ideas rather than expressing support for them, which is having a demoralising effect.

What next?

Raise awareness of this clash in approach. How can the manager understand the impact of his decision making on the team around him, if he is not aware of his own style? And likewise, how can the team members understand the impact of their approach on the manager, without understanding themselves? Awareness of our own behaviour and its impact on those around us is key to constructive development.

So, firstly, do not be afraid to use a valid and reliable personality assessment to support the identification of each individual’s unique characteristics.

Secondly, take time to conduct individual feedbacks with each team member, exploring strength areas, identifying potential blind spots, assessing their decision-making preferences and the subsequent impact on others.

Be open and transparent. To achieve mutual respect, and in order to maximise the benefits of diverse opinions and preferences, each individual needs to recognise where, within their differences, their particular strengths lie.

Encourage the team to realise that if they take the manager’s approach to decision making and risk into account when suggesting ideas, and ensure their proposals consider potential pitfalls, they are more likely to get the green light.

At the same time, encourage the manager to understand why his team are feeling frustrated, and to strike a balance between risk avoidance and risk management.

Initially, the manager could choose a colleague idea and run with it, even if it doesn’t work out, he will have gained the support from his team by allowing them the opportunity to feel heard.

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