Working in teams can be hard sometimes. There are a lot of reasons working with other people can go wrong. Miscommunications, different working styles, and language can all create problems with teams. However, some teams are just straight up toxic. They simply cannot work together. For whatever reason, that certain group of people, although they may have the same goal, cannot put aside their differences to achieve it. This can happen in the work place, but is not limited to that environment. All types of groups have toxic teams.
Before we dive in, I wanted to outline some of the things that define a toxic team. If people are gossiping, backstabbing, blaming, fighting or anything that is slowing down the progress of the team, it could be considered toxic. There will of course be problems in any team, but when it starts seriously inhibiting the team then it should be addressed.
When dealing with toxic teams, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. Trying to ignore the problem will simply let it grow unchecked. Acknowledging that there is an issue is the first step in fixing the problem. Personally, I do not have a lot of experience with toxic teams in the workplace. Everywhere I have worked, people have gotten along fine. However, I have experienced some toxic people in sports teams that I have been a part of over the years. Luckily, it was not a complete mess and there were only a couple of people bringing the toxicity to the group and we got it handled. In this case, my coach was well respected and I think he handled the situation well. His whole idea was that people did not have to be friends off the field, but when we were at practice or games we would respect each other and be teammates. Of course being friends off the field will build chemistry and makes things on the field easier, there can be other ways. If we did not get it sorted out we would run. This might not be the best tactic, and it seems hard, if not impossible to implement in an office setting, but it worked on the field. People do not have to like each other, but if it gets to the point where they are not passing to a certain person because they don’t like them, or trying to bring the team down to spite someone, then the coach would step in.
In regards to a work environment, where you can’t always make people run to sort out their problems, there are other things to do. First, the leader must address the subject. Second, people need to be held accountable for their actions. Third, conversations need to be had between the people having problems. Fourth, a common goal must be created, or re-found if it has been lost. People tend to work harder when they are working for other people they like. Fifth, set ground rules of how people on the team are to be treated. Make sure they are clear and everyone understands. Lastly, realize that everyone has differences, but they do not have to ruin a team. It can be extremely challenging to help people work things out and it will not always work in a step by step process in the books, but ignoring the problem is the worst thing to do so trying to implement a process will be helpful.
Toxicity can ruin a great team. I believe that it is important to catch the problems as soon as possible and try to hash them out before anything major comes of it, but if this is not possible, there are lots different resources, plans and step by step ideas on how to start working through issues.