Making working as a team work

Katy Bateson — №31 with Grace Marshall

Working in a team can be tough—really tough. You can spend 40 hours a week with people who you wouldn’t choose to associate with if you had the option. With the modern workplace cramming people into open plan offices, and with longer working hours and less staff doing more work, relationships between colleagues can often be tense.

So here are a few hints and tips to make work and your colleagues more bearable!

Have fun together

Having fun together as a team is incredibly important and helps to relieve some of the stress of work. We might not want to spend our personal time socialising with the people we work with, but when we are at work, we need to inject some fun.

Here are three ways you can bring some fun into your team:

  1. Have soup day! This was a wonderful thing that a former team of mine came up with. We had a set day of the week that was soup day, and each week someone had to make soup for everyone in the team. It was lovely to sit down together and to eat something that one of us had made; it even brought out some friendly competition regarding who made the best soup! You could also have cake day or any other food that you all enjoy making.

  2. Celebrate birthdays! It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but having a card signed by everyone in the team and maybe having a cake (bought either by the birthday-person or the rest of the team) is a nice touch and adds some fun to the year.

  3. Go out! Some workplaces have weekly social events, which is probably a bit excessive for many people, but why not think about going out as a team maybe once a quarter? You could go for a meal, to the cinema, go paintballing, or do whatever you may like. It’s even better if you can persuade the boss to let you do it during work time since it’s a team-building exercise.

Celebrate achievements

As a team you need to celebrate achievements, both team successes and individual successes. It’s easy to let the successes pass by and to get annoyed by the things Barry didn’t do, while completely forgetting the things he did do!

One way you can celebrate achievements is by adding “ta-da!” moments into your working day. Ta-da moments are the things that have gone well—the scary task you completed, the successful phone call you made, or the blog post you published.

Here are three ways to bring some ta-da moments into your week at work:

  1. Spend the first five minutes of your weekly meeting thinking about your ta-da moments over the last week. Then have everyone go around and share one with the rest of the team.

  2. Set aside five minutes before you all finish for the day to have a quick group huddle to share today’s ta-da moments.

  3. Start your day with a quick huddle to share your biggest ta-da moment from yesterday. This is a great way to start the day feeling positive. And don’t forget to say thank you. It’s really important that everyone in a team feels valued and respected. Everyone appreciates someone saying thank you when they’ve done a good piece of work or helped someone out.

Remember people have a life outside of work

You and your colleagues have lots of things going on in your lives outside of work; depending on how open your colleagues are with you, there might be a lot of things going on that you don’t know about. So if a colleague has been snappy or uncooperative, take a minute to remember that. They might be having relationship troubles, someone in the family might be ill, or it could be as simple as their washing machine breaking. Your colleagues could be carrying any of that stuff around with them.

None of us is perfect: we all bring our home life to work and our work life home. If we try to have more compassion for our colleagues and for ourselves, we will find ourselves feeling less annoyed with each other. You might want to remind yourself by writing “remember compassion” on a post-it note and sticking it somewhere you’ll see!

Don’t be the office gossip

We’ve all stood around the water cooler and complained—complained about Lucy being too slow, about John’s constant questions, and about Sophie always arriving late. And yes it can feel good to vent, but venting doesn’t solve any problems.

Is Lucy being slow because she’s struggling but doesn’t dare ask for help? Is John asking questions because he’s interested in his job and in his colleagues? Is Sophie late because she’s having problems at home?

By complaining and gossiping about people, you run a real risk of isolating and alienating your colleagues, whether it’s done consciously or unconsciously. No one wants work to be like school, full of cliques and judgment. Don’t be the mean boy or mean girl!

We all have our qualities that are annoying. So before you start complaining and gossiping, ask yourself two things:

  1. How would I feel if one of my colleagues were saying this about me?

  2. How would I feel if my friends or family members had colleagues talking about them in that way?

Remember Bruce Tuckman

You might have heard of Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing model; it’s a very helpful tool to remember if you’re working as part of a team, especially one that isn’t gelling. Although it is primarily used to help a manager know how to lead a team, it has some useful take-away information for everyone.

Tuckman describes four different stages that a team goes through. The first stage, forming, is when a team first gets together and no one is clear about what they need to do or what their responsibilities are.

The second stage, storming, is when people on the team are trying to figure out their position in the group. This can cause a lot of emotional tension and can cause discomfort and upset in the working environment as different personalities clash.

The third stage, norming, is when everyone on the team knows what their job is and what their responsibilities are. The team is working well together.

The fourth stage, performing, is when the team is working very efficiently. They work well as a team, any conflict is resolved quickly, and they are achieving high levels of work. When you’re going through a difficult time at work, it’s worth taking a step back and realising where your team is on the Tuckman model. Chances are, you’ll be on the storming stage and can take comfort in the fact that this stage won’t last forever.

Also remember that when a new person joins your team, you’re probably going to head back to forming and begin the process again. This is why working on a team with a high turnover of staff can be stressful.

Be part of the solution

If you’re working on a team where some people don’t pull their weight or are negative, it can be quite easy to fall into the attitude of “they’re not doing it, so why should I?” But don’t settle for being less than your best: look for answers to problems, help colleagues that are struggling, and bring positivity into all areas of your work. Not only will you be happier, but you never know—some of your kindness, compassion, and fun might rub off on your colleagues, giving you all a happier working environment with positive working relationships.

Photo: Flickr/Mr.Thomas CC BY-SA 2.0

Katy batson

Katy Bateson

Katy believes in the power of positivity and is a productivity and creativity explorer. She works as a productivity ninja for Think Productive and is an improviser and the leader of her improvisation group, We Are Improv. Katy is fascinated about creativity and set up Bee Creativity, which runs online courses to help people rediscover their creative selves.

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