Employee Relations

When bad teamwork strikes

workplace training

Image by Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock, Inc

In yesterday’s video interview with business psychologist Simon Kilpatrick, we talked about the value of team building. We talked about why it’s important to put team members through structured, organised team building activities, and we talked about the transferable skills it teaches.


You can watch that video here.


But why is it so important to encourage good teamwork within your workforce? I’d like to answer that question today, by looking at a few things that can go wrong when teams don’t get along.

Bad communication can block a healthy and productive environment


Bethany Plaza is the CEO of Conscientia Corporation, and she warns that when people don’t work well together, the company struggles.


I had two different individuals who worked for me” she says. “Their jobs overlapped, and they depended upon one another for information. But while one was very direct with their communication, the other was more insecure about sharing information.


This clash in style and personality was not conducive to a healthy and productive working environment. At first, I tried mediating all communications. But this was very time-consuming and took away from my day. Next, I tried to educate them on better communication styles, explaining to each party why the other needed information. But the communication issue was so counterproductive, that eventually, I had to let one of them go.

Bad teamwork has an impact on your paying customers


It’s not just internal operations and overall productivity that is affected by poor teamwork – your customers notice, too. And this can be harmful to your brand image and reputation – a lesson learned by HR consultant Laura MacLeod, during her earlier years working as a bartender in an NYC hotel.


The bar staff had lots of personal squabbles” she explains. “We didn’t serve guests effectively or get the job done well. For example, bartenders who talked to customers instead of working would be shunned by other staff, and not assisted. This led to a lot of guest complaints – and morale behind the bar was horribly low.


Laura goes on to explain how this experience became her inspiration for helping organisations resolve conflicts and move forward together. She advises leaders to guide their employees through communication and teamwork issues, because when everybody learns to work together, you will build a better brand, boost customer loyalty, and make more money.

Teamwork goes beyond profits and productivity


Biren Bandara is now CEO of Leader School Inc – but for 15 years, he served as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He’s seen his fair share of teams falling apart.


I remember one squadron in particular” he recalls. “The Officer Commanding (OC) and the Sargent Major (SM) were both very successful in their own right. However, they had the fatal error of always trying to please their boss instead of doing the right thing. The OC’s experience was heavily weighted in desk vs field, but the SM – who was a well accomplished senior solder – avoided advising the OC of better options, to avoid the risk of harming his yearly evaluation.

The people in the team wore the brunt of all these decisions. Poor planning, reluctance to accept feedback, and bad communication all made the team fail over and over again. The squadron had some of the best individual talent at execution level. But due to poor teamwork at leadership level, the group remained a sum that was less than its parts.


Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom.


“I remember being in a squadron that deployed a 25 person troop into Afghanistan, provided security for the 2010 Olympics, and supported high-level exercises at the same time” Biren says. “Despite weeks and months away from family, and long and arduous days, the squadron’s morale remained high, and everything got done. The squadron was constantly getting praise from the Unit CO, as well as from their fellow soldiers. The efficiency and leadership of this squadron is something I have drawn inspiration from ever since.”

Job skills aren’t everything – focus on building great teams


You should be hiring skilled people. And you should be providing job-specific training and development programs. But the ability to do a particular job is not your only goal when it comes to recruitment or training – you should be thinking about how your people work together.


The lesson Bethany Plaza learned from her bad communication issue, was to make hiring decisions based on more than just job-related skills. She now considers interpersonal and team building skills critical to her working environment – and says you should never be afraid to make a tough decision, especially if a person is exceptionally capable, but is going to bring the rest of your team down.