Teamwork: an essential but vulnerable resource in your company

Alessandro Boratti
In a workplace environment, there are tasks that require such a big amount of work that a single person cannot carry alone. This is the first reason why teamwork is so essential; it enables organizations to solve issues by delegating tasks to more qualified people, hence, saving time, money and achieving better results. 
Secondly, teamwork is also important in those circumstances in which a single worker may potentially do the entire job, but a group can do it better and provide many benefits for the company first, and for each employee then. 
The following post will be about the positive impact of team working in an organization and what it is required to be part of a team. Eventually, it will be analysed one pathology of consolidated groups: groupthink.

“Esprit de corps”

The French phrase above is particularly adapted to describe what teamwork is: “bodies’ spirit”, in other words, a sense of unity, common enthusiasm, interests and responsibilities, developed in a team. It is the “glue” that keeps a group together and the “oil” that allows coordinated movements towards the goals. There are a countless number of examples of team works inside companies; brainstorm meetings, daily cooperation based on one-on-one feedback, preparation for presentation, split or swap tasks and so forth. If a group works well and efficiently, it can bring big improvements to the entire company, making it a place where workers feel important and comfortable at the same time.

Here there are some of the most recurrent benefits gained from teamwork: 
  • Boost of productivity.
  • Motivation, engagement, synergy.
  • Health risk taking, mediated solutions. More perspectives and feedbacks 
  • Learning opportunities, building trust, less hierarchy.
  • Less hierarchy 

Teamwork skills as essentials to be part of a company

When you apply for a job in a company, in 99% of the times, you are asked to prove to have the abilities to stay in an environment where you have continuous interactions with other people; only if you can fit yourself in this context, you have a chance to be hired. Teamwork skills can be both innate and developed through education at school and university. It is important that people who aim to work in organizations, especially in the start-ups, (companies with fresh energy that exploit the benefits from team cooperation), are focused on improving those areas, in which they feel low and inexpert. Being shy or unwilling to put yourself on the line can cost you a lot when you are about to search for a job. 

Under, there is a list of the most important skills and characteristics required: 
    • Openness & participation
    • Communication & listening
    • Commitment (for the same goals)
    • Flexibility 
    • Trust, Respect and Knowledge of roles.

A pathology of team working: groupthink 

When many people have to collaborate, coordinate, interact and think together, it is pretty obvious that many issues can arise and complicate, if not even stop, the decision making process. Of course, the problems can account for different gravity and have different nature; for instance, members may not feel mutually accountable to one another for the team’s objectives, and they may lack of commitment. In another cases, there may be poor communication, with people interrupting others, failing to speak or addressing issues or failures to the teammates.
The example cited are intuitive and you may be conscious about them. Yet, there is an interesting case, which might not come to mind easily, when you investigate about group work problems: “groupthink”. This kind of “pathology” usually occurs when the members of a group have similar backgrounds, have worked together for a long time, have insulated from outside opinions and have no clear rules for decision making. Basically, all the members tend to align to a common way of thinking, behaving and dealing with tasks that make every meeting useless. Moreover, things can worsen; in fact, choosing together can make each member underestimate the risks of a decision only because everybody else thinks and acts in the same way. Under these circumstances, team decisions can become even poorer than those taken by a single subject.
Many symptoms lead to groupthink. For example, the illusion of invulnerability, which can occur especially for the ex-successful teams that let grow too optimism after big “wins”. Or rather, a developed stereotyped view of enemies that leads to avoiding taking effective responses to their strategies. In addictions, this pathology rises in groups where nobody has the courage to object the common idea and there is a continuous illusion of unanimity, in other words, where the majority of judgements is assumed unanimous.
If you are the head of a project or the supervisor in a department, you will have for sure to compare yourself with assistants and employees and listen to their idea: when you will meet up, you will have to pay attention not to fall into the trap of groupthink or any other problems that teamwork may face.