Shana Bosler
Director, Coaching,
Learning & Development
Emergenetics International

When teams collaborate successfully, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. Productive teamwork leads to better results as staff align on goals and incorporate cognitive diversity into their work. Collaborative teams also tend to be happier as they feel connected with one another, see themselves as valuable contributors and affect change in their organizations.

These actions all add up to greater employee retention as Gusto has reported that 54% of employees say a strong sense of community kept them at a company longer.

While we know that collaboration is an essential part of organizational success, it’s not necessarily easy. In fact, while 75% of employers rate collaboration as “very important,” 39% of employees believe that people don’t collaborate enough.

Effective teamwork can also be impacted by virtual workspaces, particularly if team members aren’t used to operating remotely. Individuals who are working remotely may not even realize that siloes have gone up within their team simply because they lack visibility into one another’s projects. It can be all too easy for staff to keep their heads down and move forward without consulting colleagues or seeking outside opinions as they try to be productive.

If you’re working in a remote or hybrid team (or even if you find yourself back in person), consider these warning signs and red flags to assess whether your team may need to examine its dynamics.

Proceed with Caution: Warning Signs That You May Need to Address Collaboration

1. Not all team members contribute during meetings.

Some quietness can be chalked up to the Expressiveness spectrum. For example, those in the first-third of Expressiveness tend to use their words sparingly, so you may not hear a lot from them. However, if your meetings are regularly silent even after you’ve provided information in advance, allowed for pauses to give people time to speak up and gently encouraged staff to share input, it may be time to assess how well your group is collaborating.

2. Miscommunications occur frequently.

Miscommunication can show up in a number of ways. It could be that team members aren’t understanding one another. They may experience intent-impact gaps. You may also notice that conversations are going in circles as you have the same discussion multiple times with colleagues. In any case, miscommunications are often a root cause of poor collaboration.

3. Groupthink has become the norm.

While it’s possible that there may be a lack of cognitive diversity on your team, often when groupthink arises it’s because individuals aren’t collaborating effectively. They may not be challenging one another’s thoughts or raising new ideas to help make the team operate at the most effective level it could.

4. Team members have disproportionate workloads.

Work will naturally ebb and flow as certain projects or responsibilities ramp up throughout the year. Consider looking at your team dynamics if you consistently notice that some individuals are perpetually active and working long hours while others always seem to have time on their hands.

5. Too much “I,” not enough “We.”

Everyone deserves to have their individual accomplishments recognized and celebrated. However, when team members seem to always reference “I” when discussing projects rather than “we,” you may find that collaboration is suffering as staff have taken a more siloed approach to work.

6. Milestones are being missed.

While situations will arise that may throw projects off course, teams that collaborate effectively are typically quite productive and consistently meet their deadlines. If you notice that missed milestones are becoming a pattern for your group, you may need to retool your approach to collaboration.

7. Individuals are unclear on priorities and roles.

When groups operate successfully, team members are aligned on their priorities as well as the ways they as individuals and as a collective can contribute to successful outcomes. It may be time to re-evaluate team dynamics if colleagues are prioritizing competing projects, are duplicating efforts or are unclear on the value they bring to the group.

8. Conflicts linger among staff.

It’s natural for teammates to disagree when they work together. What isn’t normal is when that conflict goes unresolved or spills into unproductive arguments. It may be that you need to address the situation with one or two team members, or you may find that conflict is a broader challenge that’s impacting your group’s ability to work together.

Take Immediate Action: Red Flags Affecting Team Success

9. Team members feel nervous to give feedback or are unable to accept it themselves.

Psychological safety is essential to effective collaboration. When staff are either fearful of giving feedback or unwilling to accept it constructively, pause to assess group dynamics and re-assess how your team is working together.

10. Team members won’t take responsibility or admit to mistakes.

Also related to psychological safety is the capacity of team members to act transparently, admit fault without fear of retribution and still accept accountability for their actions. When individuals try to hide missteps or simply won’t take responsibility at all, it’s a sign that your team lacks trust.

11. Team members are not showing empathy for one another.

Teams are much more effective when they understand each other and can put themselves in their colleagues’ shoes. Groups that can’t be empathetic to their team members and support each other will struggle to collaborate productively.

12. Team members are leaving.

If turnover is higher than average for your organization or industry, there is a good chance that team dynamics may be a contributing factor. If nothing else, when individuals leave and new ones join the group, it’s helpful to re-evaluate your collaborative practices to get all staff on the same page.

Effective teamwork is essential to building positive working relationships between employees, fostering connection among staff and improving outcomes and results for your organization. If your team is exhibiting any of these warning signs or red flags, Emergenetics is here to help.

Our virtual programs, including Virtual Meeting of the Minds and Team Dynamics for Small Groups, are designed to help individuals discover their strengths, appreciate the gifts of their colleagues, enhance collaboration and support positive, connected working relationships for dispersed teams.

To learn more about how our solutions could improve the way your staff work together and address the challenges describe above, fill out the form below to connect with our team today.