A Team Can’t Be a Team Without Being a Team

It is better to be alone than in bad company

George Washington

Many people stand by this rule written out by George Washington in 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation but truthfully, when it comes down to it, sometimes you don’t have a choice.  Especially in the workforce.  When people are expected to work together with others you’d expect there to be some type of clashing of ideals eventually.  It’s inevitable.  So what happens when these people clash?  What happens when you’re in charge and everyone gets on everyone else’s nerves and there appears to be no answer? Other than of course firing everyone and starting over.  Luckily Paul Glen and Maria McManus have the answer in a simple four-step process outlined in their book The Geek Leader’s Handbook.

Step one: Find the toxic behaviors and their impact

This is probably the easiest of all the steps and I’m sure everyone already knows exactly what they want to say. Get out a piece of paper and ask yourself and/or the people who are having problems about the problems they experience. Ask them what the most bothersome things that happen in the work place and about the main complaints that people have. These are good ways to find the reasons why people act the way they do. Maybe they have good reasons behind their actions or words, or maybe not, but that’s for us to decide later. Right now we’re just writing stuff down.

Step two: Claim and assign responsibility

Figure out who is responsible for each time on this list. A lot of this could be on you, the manager. This is why they say to claim responsibility. You have to be the first to do this so hopefully others follow.

Step three: Choose your interventions

After responsibility has been assigned, it’s time to act. An intervention is just when you take someone or a group of people aside and talk with them about something that needs to change. You get to choose how this is done. Whether it’s in a group setting or personally. This is probably the most difficult of all the steps here. Especially for you, the manager. You need to have prepared ways that people can fix the problems that others are having with them or the way people are acting towards others about things. That way when a person comes in, you can be as emotionless as possible in giving them your instructions. If I were the manager, I’d have just about every word I say to them written out so I don’t deviate in an emotional fashion.

A quick, yet cheesy short tip for employee interventions
Step four: Implement and monitor

Once all the talking is finished, You have to make sure that people actually go and work on the problems mentioned in the interventions. It is good to watch how people interact and make sure no one acts like Nick Fury and just dismisses it all.

This of course won’t be the first and only time you will have to have interventions or meeting like these. Maybe it’ll work on the first try and people seem to work well with each other for a while, but it’s sure to go downhill again. That’s when you know it’s time to pull out the paper and meet with everyone again. Hopefully though as time goes on, problems become less and less prominent.


For other tips on working your employees through problems, Glenn Rolfsen has a great TED talk about backbiting. Backbiting is one of the most common problems in the workplace and Glenn gives us an interesting way to get rid of it.