The strongest and most consistent factor that increased teamwork was managers encouraging teamwork. When managers helped employees work together as a team, resolved disagreements, and supported team efforts, the group as a whole exhibited higher teamwork.
Action: Have managers encourage teamwork. Explain why teamwork is important. Work with the group to specify the actions and behaviors that constitute teamwork for this group (e.g., the behaviors needed for middle managers will be quite different from those needed for file clerks). This almost seems elementary. However, we find that managers may create competition among employees, show favoritism, or may simply be aloof or uninvolved. Are you as a manager doing things that inhibit teamwork?
Action: Managers should also help resolve disagreements within workgroups. If disagreements are not solved by group members within a reasonable amount of time, help them solve the issue before long-term grudges are cemented into group relationships.
The second strongest factor to affect teamwork was the degree to which group members blamed each other for problems. Our employee surveys have shown that frequently, blame is the strongest factor that affects teamwork. The more that people blame each other (rather than solve their problems), the less they are able to work as a team.
Action: Strive to create a blame free work environment. The first step may be to admit there is a problem. Some groups exist in a state of denial. However, when you ask them, “What is the first question that people ask when something ‘bad’ happens?” and their answer is, “Who did that?” It may be easier to see that their first reaction is to find someone to blame for the problem.
Important: Creating a blame-free environment does not mean that people are not accountable for their actions. You hired intelligent, competent people. Most mistakes are a function of work procedures.
Action: Refine work and interoffice procedures to prevent problems and mistakes. Create a regular cycle of problem recognition and resolution.
Action: Check for adequate authority. Consistently, employee surveys show that blame is higher in workgroups where employees don’t have enough authority to do their jobs. If employees have enough authority, when an unexpected problem does occur, they handle it. If they don’t have enough authority, people tend to start blaming each other for the problem.
Action: Review work rules and guidelines. Are they created to help people do their jobs? Or are they created to control people? Frustrating red-tape or out-dated procedures can create problems that hinder teamwork.