Why Managers Love it When their Teams are Uncomfortable Working Together

When you think of teamwork, do images of comradeship, triumphs, and smiles come to mind?

On the surface, that’s exactly what great teams look like. What you don’t see, however, is the effort it takes to paint such a picture. 

Good teamwork doesn’t just happen. It takes careful direction and full participation from every person on board. Even then, you may still have people who don’t always get along.

If that is the case, your team may be positioned to become the best team yet.

Yes, you read that right!

Teamwork is rarely a success story because every participant likes or agrees with each other. It doesn’t happen just because everyone is good at whatever tasks the project requires.

And while feeling familiar and friendly with your team members can be productive, it does very little to present new opportunities or uncover challenges that could be beneficial to your project.

Simply put, there’s more to be learned from team members who don’t automatically gel.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Being uncomfortable among team members often forces individuals to step outside of what’s familiar and dive into new ideas and challenges.

Team members who are exposed to information outside of what they already know, develop new skills and discover what else they’re capable of.

It’s not uncommon to see a level of discomfort in teams, regardless of how well team members know each other. Even seasoned teams can struggle when it comes to voicing their opinions or contradicting widespread consensus.

Consider the best team you have, how they function, how comfortable they are with each other. There was a time when no one on that team knew each other.

At some point, they had to become familiar with each other, build trust, and step outside of what they knew as individuals to combine their knowledge and skills into a workforce.

What truly makes a team click is their ability to adapt and look forward to the rewards of their initial discomfort rather than their current situation. When building a new team, consider introducing the group to a few icebreaker games, then investing in ongoing team building events to help dissolve unfamiliarity.

Force Creativity

Teamwork isn’t always automatic, neither is creativity.

Think about it: you put a like-minded group of individuals together and they’re likely to come up with similar solutions or observations. But they could be overlooking the other side of the coin.

People with conflicting ideas will need to get creative to agree on how to move forward. They’ll be forced to vocalize their point of view and why they stand behind an idea. This might not happen when everyone on the team harmonizes their thoughts immediately.

In addition, your team members may work harder to convince the naysayers why their ideas deserve attention. They look closer at the problem and take more time in research to see if their way of thinking is truly the best way. As a result, issues or tasks may benefit from better solutions.

Deal with Downsides of Conflict

However, not all controversy is conducive to creativity. Research shows that people with overly dominant personalities can often discourage innovative thinking. As a result, some people may cave in to keep the peace, not because they agree an idea is best.

In one study, 201 college students were observed as they offered ideas in a group setting. Dominance, egotism, and being headstrong or hostile didn’t spur creativity. However, disagreeable individuals were more likely to get others to see their point of view.

In another study, researchers found that unrelenting attributes weren’t necessary for groups that were already open to new ideas. The more open-minded individuals were force-fed ideas, Steve Jobs style, the less effective their suggestions.

Knowing this, you should have a plan in place to deal with the two types of conflict that can emerge from dominant personalities. Task conflict (disagreements in views, opinions, and ideas) is more likely to generate innovation than relational conflict (interpersonal issues).

If relational conflict is your main issue, it could deter creative thinking in favor of negative emotions, stress, and loss of productivity. Just two members engaged in relational conflict can infect the whole group. It’s best to remove this type of conflict and deal with it individually if you’re trying to encourage better communication.

Over to You

Diversity is often challenging, but it can lead to the biggest rewards. That’s why some managers make it a point to pair team members who, they know, won’t agree on all factors. It all comes down to identifying what uniqueness each team member brings to the group, and how far they’re willing to go to share it.

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