Effective team communication generally contributes to stronger performance, cohesion and morale. However, a number of challenges and limitations within the team communication construct inhibit optimized interaction.
Inter-Office and Geographical Distance
Despite the capabilities of electronic technology and virtual workspace tools, team communication isn't as effective when workers are spread out, according to Forbes. In an office building, having employees in different department sections on one floor or on different floors gets in the way of their natural inclination to engage in face-to-face interaction. Email is useful for certain purposes, but it loses the context of effective face-to-face conversations. Virtual work teams made up of people spread throughout the globe is even more challenging to manage. Marketing employees at various headquarters may collaborate through a virtual office platform, which is better than nothing. However, it takes away the benefits of close, intimate relationships and cohesion.
One highly challenging obstacle to effective team communication is conflict, which Mind Tools suggests is inevitable with long-term teams. A primary purpose of work-team communication is idea generation and discussion. The challenge is that people sometimes get personal when their ideas aren't valued or when another employee debates their merits. Heated conversations can produce putdowns and negative tension, which puts a lot of pressure on a manager to resolve conflicts and keep communication productive. Retreats and conflict-resolution coaching are strategies to help employees improve their own abilities to work through dissension.
Time and Resource Allocations
A natural drawback of a team-based business structure is that it takes more time to make decisions. Even forming and developing work teams is a process that takes significant time. The goal is to inspire more and better ideas and resolutions with collaboration, but multiple voices take longer to play out than one person thinking and acting. There are also costs involved in forming and managing effective work teams. Businesses can invest in retreats, training, team-building workshops and office resources to support effective teams.
Lack of Clear Leadership
Effective team communication is reliant on strong formal or informal leadership. In some cases, companies or business units leave work teams permanently or temporarily without a formal manager or team leader. Though not a given, a lack of a guiding hand or go-to authority figure can contribute to misguided and nondirectional communication. Even when a team leader is in place, a lack of vision, direction and motivation from that person can allow for the same limited communication.
The four conventional phases of team development are forming, storming, norming and conforming. Coaching employees through early stages of building rapport and working through tension is paramount to success.