Teams of four people, 18 minutes, spaghetti sticks, marshmallows… Do all of these remind you of the spaghetti marshmallow challenge? If your answer is no, the Spagetthi marshmallow challenge is a design activity that promotes team building and collaboration to build the tallest and free-standing structure. Tom Wujec, the developer of the challenge, had countless experiments with various groups and experienced that kindergarteners beat business school graduates in this challenge. Interesting, isn’t it?
Besides its significant benefits, teamwork in the workplace has several challenges. Oftentimes, I hear from my students that they dislike group projects, and it’s very common to hear about conflict issues in their teams. On several occasions, I experienced that teamwork does not make the dream work. So, what are the prevalent challenges in a teamwork setting?
Lack of purpose is often listed as the number one challenge and threat to the success of teamwork. The team members need to know why they exist?, what is the ultimate goal of this collaboration?, and what is the meaning or direction?… Successful teams invest in building the purpose to motivate better, communicate, and engage team members.
Strongly tied to the purpose, trust is pivotal in teamwork. Favoritism in the same group of people, lack of opportunities for visibility, team leaders, micromanaging approach, unhealthy competition and formation of silos, unresolved conflicts, and disengagement in company events are critical signs of the lack of trust. Leaders and senior management should be role models with accountability, transparency, and clarity.
When team members struggle to get clear directions, answers, and instructions, it is very likely to see disengagement. Information overload, limited feedback, over-criticism, conflicts, and misunderstandings bring a lot of stress and anxiety in the team environment, which are major concerns that damage communication. Constructive communication strategies such as open door policies, active listening, transparency, empathy, respect, and nonverbal cues are essential to improve communication between team members.
Hybrid work environment
Do you see this quote in some of the e-mails that you are getting: “My working hours may not be your working hours. Please do not feel obligated to reply outside of your normal work schedule.”? Working hours are changing, and even before Covid, remote working was part of our lives. Considering the future of the workplace, hybrid work environments are becoming the norm for many organizations. Lack of proper tools and guidance for resources often causes disengagement in the hybrid work environment. To make everyone have a sense of belonging to their team, we need more than creating group chats or instant messaging.
We all hear and read about high turnover rates in several different organizational settings. How about absenteeism, presenteeism, quite quitting? Lack of engagement and feeling less invested in the role are major causes for all of these reactions that employees create as a defense mechanism. A proven fact is that highly engaged teams perform better.
People have different strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and beliefs. Even though we all have good intentions, we sometimes experience that coworkers misunderstand each other’s actions. Every human being is one of a kind, and it is essential to acknowledge, understand, and enjoy diversity in the workplace for successful teamwork. Generational differences are also critical to acknowledge and address for better-performing teams.
Is it really healthy to promote competition in the work environment? Yes, unless it turns out to be a toxic environment where people feel constant pressure and stress that leads them to be stuck in their own siloes with, focusing solely on their own benefit. More interaction among team members and fostering an open-minded approach with less criticism often bring positivity in the competitive environment.
Without careful delegation of work packages or balancing workloads in teamwork with acknowledging the skill sets, availability, and interests of team members, it’s almost impossible to achieve success in any project. Being flexible and increasing autonomy among team members, employees often feel their freedom and power in the team environment, which improves productivity.
After touching on all these challenges, does teamwork really make the dream work? It depends on how to address these challenges better to make team dynamics work. Building a collaborative and cooperative workplace is pivotal for the success of organizations in today’s rapidly evolving environment. Leaders need to understand the teamwork challenges better and address them before everything comes to the point of no return.
Learn more about our Author: Dr. Deniz Besiktepe is a trained architect and currently an assistant professor at the Purdue University School of Construction Management Technology (SCMT). She holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering and Management from Colorado State University. She has 13 years of industry experience in construction and facilities management areas prior to joining academia. She is the recipient of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Foundation Academic Contributor of the Year Award 2022 and currently serves on the IFMA Foundation’s scholarship and fundraiser committees. Dr. Besiktepe’s FM research focuses on building maintenance, condition assessment, decision-making models, fuzzy applications, and implementing data-driven techniques in the FM area. In addition, she is currently teaching a graduate-level facilities management course at Purdue SCMT.
*Disclaimer: This post was not generated by A.I. It is indeed written by a real life human. A pretty cool human in fact.