Encouraging Teams to Work Well Together
Encouraging Teams to Work Well Together

Encouraging Teams to Work Well Together

Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Development, Employee Learning & Development, Company Culture, Employee Well-being   — 5 MIN


In a sense, every business is a team. And yet, many organizations suffer unnecessarily because of poor team dynamics, especially during times of change. A diverse and talented workforce is not working at its full potential if its members cannot learn to work well as a team. However, it’s never too late to identify problems and find solutions.

The importance of team dynamics

It should come as no surprise that working well with others is beneficial. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, groups of three to five people perform better at problem-solving than even the best individuals. Researchers attribute this to the way groups process information together. A properly functioning team can work together effectively to avoid errors and find solutions faster than individuals. Of course, this will increase productivity and also boost creativity and innovation. A team that works well together is like a well-oiled machine performing at peak productivity.  

But in reality, humans are not machines, and many things can affect the balance of team dynamics. For teams to achieve the best performance and productivity, employees must get along well with each other and avoid disputes. The most resilient teams will be able to cope with the inevitable changes that occur in a workplace and even learn from the problems that arise, leading them to outperform more fragile teams.

Characteristics of a dysfunctional team

To increase cooperation and participation in a team, it is important to recognize weak points that may cause dysfunction. These weak points can be certain behaviors that arise in a group or even company culture traits. It’s important to address these dysfunctions carefully and without pointing fingers. The good news is that once identified, these problems can often be remedied with some coaching or open discussion among teammates. 

Resistance to change

Change is inevitable in most workplaces. For example, many companies are navigating rapidly advancing technology, the integration of AI, and shifting demographics in the workplace. Whether a new team member, manager, or company-wide initiatives, change can be daunting. Research shows that when changes arise, many employees react negatively, due to fears surrounding job loss and workload increases

However, these fears may be unfounded, or increases in workload may be temporary and worth it in the long run. It’s important to keep an open dialogue with all team members and reassure them that changes are made to benefit the team. Resistance to change can be easily alleviated if employees know the change won’t negatively impact them.


Much of a sense of one’s self can be tied up in their work and when that person feels underappreciated or criticized, it’s easy for feelings of defensiveness to arise. Working on teams often puts everyone’s work on display, which may create tension for defensive employees. Of course, negative feedback can also be a great tool for improvement when it is delivered in an empathetic manner. Understanding how to accomplish this can reduce feelings of defensiveness.

Defensiveness can easily create a domino effect on a team: If one person gets defensive, others may feel like they need to walk on eggshells around that person. Both sides may fear retaliation in the form of unnecessarily harsh criticisms or other embarrassing situations. These tensions make for a rather dysfunctional team.

Defensiveness can be a tricky beast to tackle, but it is manageable. These feelings arise when someone feels uncomfortable in the group, and the solution here is to ease that discomfort. This can be done by increasing feelings of inclusiveness and making all team members feel valued. One way to do this is to set a good example by running more inclusive meetings.

Employee conflict

Conflict between team members can easily arise from defensiveness, but it can also have other origins. A survey from Harvard Business Review found that the most common source of conflict is communication differences. Team members might also disagree on how to problem-solve or implement a solution. These conflicts can make other members think they must pick a side, ultimately splitting the team into factions. 

Employees are bound to butt heads from time to time, but working to understand each other better can help to reduce conflict. A good team leader can also help to diffuse tension when trained to deal with conflict. HSI Blue Ocean Brain can help with this kind of leadership training.


There are many ways a team can become inefficient. Some teams are bad at managing the workload, with one or more people doing too much or too little, affecting the time it takes to complete projects. Other teams may get along well but lack a meaningful sense of purpose, which can lead to putting off new tasks or not taking the work seriously, leading them to focus on other things.

According to Jordan Cohen, a productivity expert and the Senior Director of Organizational Effectiveness, Learning & Development at Weight Watchers, in an interview with Harvard Business Review, productivity can be improved with better time management and leaders who can “set a strategic vision”. Team members should have concrete goals and timelines to avoid the uncertainty that leads to procrastination.

Creating a resilient team

Whether they have been working together for years or just met each other, there are solid steps to helping employees work well as a team and avoid the common dysfunctions mentioned above.

Define compelling common goals

Well-defined goals are essential to productivity, but compelling goals can help unite a team and form a stronger sense of meaning. If the end result is impactful, team members will feel more motivated to work well together and achieve their goals more quickly. The emotional payoff of achieving difficult, compelling goals motivates teams to work well together on future projects. 

Leadership training

A good leader is key to any team. Leaders should provide guidance and ensure the team feels comfortable discussing issues and asking questions. HSI Blue Ocean Brain’s inclusive leadership training can help leaders encourage other team members to be more open with their ideas and create channels of constructive communication.

Communication training

Many problems of the dysfunctional team can be addressed with or even prevented by better communication. Often, people mean well but struggle to communicate effectively. This can lead to misunderstandings, defensiveness, and other issues. Luckily, communication is a skill and it can be learned. Consider offering some quick microlearning courses on communicating effectively to improve team dynamics.

Professional development

There is an endless sea of opportunities when it comes to professional development, from microlearning courses online to conferences and workshops. According to SurveyMonkey, almost 60% of employees agree that professional development is helpful, and yet, only 52% agree that their employer provides enough of these opportunities. Professional development courses can be a great way to teach employees the skills needed to work well on a team. For example, HSI Blue Ocean Brain offers courses on boosting inclusion and embracing change. These courses can help employees communicate inclusively and become more comfortable with a dynamic workplace.

Team building

Team building is meant to strengthen bonds between team members, which leads to feelings of psychological safety in the workplace. When employees feel psychologically safe, ideas can flourish and emotional stress is reduced. According to a Gallup study, employers benefit from increasing the feeling of psychological safety with reductions in turnover and safety incidents and increases in productivity.

Prompt conflict resolution

Some problems may go away without intervention, but it is usually best to address conflicts among team members to avoid festering issues. Resolving conflicts promptly can allow tension to ease and productivity to be smooth. So, it is in everyone’s best interest to talk things out, or better yet, train employees to communicate more effectively and avoid conflicts as often as possible. According to SHRM, some conflicts can be avoided with careful hiring and written rules and agreements that formally lay out guidelines for conflict resolution. 


Debriefs can be an excellent tool to accelerate good communication between a team and its leaders. According to the American Psychological Association, teams that conduct debriefs perform 25% better than other teams. Debriefs can be simple but should encourage participation from all members and provide an open and safe environment for discussion and questions.

Implementing these steps in any work environment will improve team dynamics and boost productivity and overall morale. Schedule a consultation with HSI Blue Ocean Brain today to see how our microlearning courses can help your team work well together.