April 16, 2018

101: Toxic teams

Bullying each other. Fighting. Complaining. These are all qualities of a toxic team, ones that managers should be able to recognize and address as quickly as possible. With collaborations more and more a part of our everyday corporate world, teams with healthy synergy are more important than ever.

Here are three things to keep in mind to prevent things from getting any more dysfunctional among teams at work.

Know the risks. To delay addressing toxic team members will damage your colleagues' trust in you, says industrial and organizational psychologist Marla Gottschalk in a LinkedIn article. It's important not to gloss over bad behaviors, she said. "You immediately disrupt the expectancy that hard work will lead to valued outcomes," she writes. "You then risk top talent running [not walking] toward the door." Those that stay will have their energy sapped if the toxic environment continues without intervention.

Debate is different (and OK). Differences of opinion on their own do not necessarily make a toxic team dynamic. But it crosses the line into toxicity when things get personal. "Each member must recognize that his or her idea may not always offer the best solution," says Christine M. Riordan of the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business at Forbes.com. "They must remain open to new ideas, accept input from others, explore options, and work toward win-win solutions."

Set standards for all. Abby Curnow-Chavez at BusinessKnowHow.com says setting new standards of behavior allows everyone to have a fresh start, but a leader must apply them to everyone. For instance, a ban on negative emails can be a new standard. And it can be tempting to sidestep the most difficult team member. "Too often the negative behaviors of certain individuals are overlooked or ignored for various reasons. This doesn't help, it hinders," Curnow-Chavez writes. "You get what you tolerate."


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