7 Teamwork Terrors and How to Conquer Them

Since the dawn of man, teamwork and cooperation has been the preferred method of getting things done. From the pyramids of Giza to the Golden Gate Bridge, we rely heavily on teams of engineers and architects to create such majestic masterpieces.

However, where there is teamwork, there is work required to be a team. Too many voices and conflicting opinions can lead to a giant headache and bring productivity to a grinding halt. Throw in egos, politics, and laziness and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Here are 7 barriers that harm the harmony of your team:

1. Anchoring

Have you ever been part of a group brainstorming session where, once two or three ideas have been shared, new ideas stop flowing and the group sort of shuts down? That’s anchoring. Teams get mentally stuck on the first few ideas and stop thinking of new solutions. Avoid the anchoring trap with these 7 brainstorming tricks, including brain writing.

2. Groupthink

This teamwork barrier occurs when a majority of the group conforms to one idea despite their own concerns and insights, perhaps due to laziness, fear of judgement, time limitations, or being subjected to peer pressure from other members of the group. Because this is another common brainstorming risk, techniques like Stepladder and Round Robin brainstorming encourage everyone in the group to share their thoughts before settling on a course of action.

3. Social Loafing

"If I don't get around to it, then someone on my team will just do it for me." If you've said this to yourself, then you're guilty of social loafing. Don't pat your lazy self on the back quite yet, you might have just cost your team some valuable productivity! Social loafing is the act of putting in less effort for a team project than you would for a solo task. This forces other team members to pick up the slack and possibility grow to resent you. One way to avoid this is by breaking a project into individual tasks and holding each team member accountable for certain steps. See how Wrike can help you assign tasks and delegate big projects.

4. Unresolvable Conflict

Even the most successful teams sometimes experience conflict due to differences in opinion, perspectives, and experiences. However, if there is no way to resolve the conflict, then conflict harms your project's outcome. Unresolvable conflict can be caused by unclear goals and expectations for the project at hand, so avoid it by clearly communicating goals with the team and helping everyone understand their role.

5. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to only accept information or evidence that confirms your own preconceptions. This bias can quickly become a roadblock when trying to iron out team conflict or justify a decision, and it can potentially lead to the Halo/Horn Effect (see below) and compromise good decision-making. To ward off this bias, challenge your beliefs and play devil's advocate. The Six Thinking Hats technique can also help you see a different perspective on the issue.

6. Halo/Horn Effect

The way you perceive an individual strongly affects how you interact with them. If they made a poor first impression, or an offhand comment rubbed you the wrong way, you may have a subconscious bias against them. When that individual voices an opinion, you might automatically be more critical than you normally would. This can work to the opposite effect too. When someone you like shares their opinion, you might have a tendency to agree. When making big team decisions, try to be aware of this bias and focus on the best outcome for the team.

7. Overconfidence Effect

Your perceptions and experiences inevitably shape who you are — but they can also lead to subtle mental biases that result in flawed decision making. The Overconfidence Effect happens when you accept or reject an idea based purely off a hunch with no evidence to back you up. (In fact, studies show that entrepreneurs are more likely to fall for this mental fallacy, rejecting others' ideas because of the false belief that they know what's best.) Don't fall for this mental trap! Always research new information and seek objective evidence to combat confirmation bias (and hopefully learn something new as well).

What other teamwork barriers have you experienced?

We'd love to hear how you resolved your teamwork troubles in the comments!

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