Corporations often expound the virtues of teamwork as giving their employees a sense of ownership in their work. This may not always be the case, however, and teamwork can sometimes be detrimental to the health of an organization in certain circumstances. Whereas some employees do well in a team environment, others may do their best work independently. In instances where a group is not cohesive, it can self-destruct and create more problems than it solves.
A poorly-managed team might see a highly competitive member emerge. This could be the team leader or manager, or a non-management team member. The person who dominates believes his way is the only way to do things and attempts to force the rest of the group into doing what he wants. Dr. Patsy Johnson of the University of Connecticut describes the dominant personality as having little consideration or respect for others while forcing his beliefs, ideas and decisions onto others. The dominant team member might also shift blame for his mistakes onto others and ridicule dissenting team members. This type of personality often results in resentment and a backlash of underhanded tactics by enemies within the group who may directly or indirectly challenge his dominance.
No Individual Recognition
When individuals form a team, the group gets credit for all the work, whether everyone contributed equally or not. This creates a sense of resentment and a feeling that a few team members contribute the vast majority of work while the rest make a minimal effort. This puts high achievers and hard workers at a disadvantage because they are equally recognized with their lesser-performing peers.
Dangers of Groupthink
Groupthink is the process of making decisions within the group that discourages creativity and individual responsibility. This occurs naturally when the group becomes too cohesive and isolated from outside influence. According to the University of Twente in the Netherlands, groupthink occurs when the group picks and chooses which information to disseminate without ensuring facts or thorough assessments. The group also limits options and solutions without considering creative alternatives. When groupthink occurs, the company risks becoming outmoded and stale. Without critical analysis or lively debate of issues, a company cannot grow and succeed.
No Constructive Conflict
An off-shoot of groupthink is a lack of constructive conflict within the team. When a team becomes too cohesive, members become reluctant to argue or debate their points. This hampers progress and subverts critical analysis and the creative process. When team members actively avoid conflict of any kind, resentment and lackadaisical attitudes build up. Authors Smith and Berg assert that balanced conflict is necessary for optimal creativity. Vanquishing opponents can be as detrimental to the team as destructive conflict. Finding a respectful balance between the two is important for the group to become productive and thrive.
- University of Iowa: Conflict and the School Leader: Expert or Novice
- University of Twente: Groupthink
- "Paradoxes of Group Life: Understanding Conflict, Paralysis, and Movement in Group Dynamics"; Kenwyn K. Smith & David N. Berg; 1997
- University of New England: Negative Aspects of Teamwork
- workplace image by Andrey Kiselev from Fotolia.com