10 Steps to Solve Tension Between Team Mates
I tend to hold back too long, when team mates have tension. Let them work it out. Perhaps you intervene quickly. If we aren’t careful, we become the problem.
Tension and diversity:
Tension between team mates is the unrealized potential of diversity. No tension means everyone thinks the same.
Diversity invites volatility.
Successful leaders connect diverse people. Weak teams celebrate uniformity. Strong teams leverage diversity.
Diversity compensates for weaknesses
only if we celebrate the strengths of others.
Intervene when tensions:
- Distract from priorities.
- Create tensions in others.
- Drain energy.
- Persists. Unsolved tension predicts unsatisfying futures.
Never begin solving relational tensions with the black-hole question, “Why is this happening?” You just entered the fruitless land of “He did this” and “She said that.”
A bridge building conversation:
- Invite them to a “work on your work relationship” meeting.
- Explain your high hopes.
- Clarify: you aren’t fixing their relationship. (Essential)
- Question one: How satisfying is your work relationship, 1 to 10?
- Question two: How important is improving your work relationship, 1-10?
- Question three: What satisfaction number would make your work relationship fulfilling, 1-10?
- Question four: How would you describe great work relationships? (Ask each person for three expressions.)
- Question five: What’s essential to building great work relationships? (Ask for three things from each.)
- Explore one response from each person. Bob, you said, “Great work relationships are supportive.” What does support look like to you? Search for observable behaviors.
- Use responses to questions four and five to determine one or two things each person will do to build a great work relationship.
Tip: Monitor emotions during the conversation. Tension means slow down or set that issue aside for a future conversation.
Work relationships deserve more than knee-jerk strategies. It’s always about the people. Consider this conversation a beginning. Plan follow-ups.
When do you intervene?
How can you improve or add to the conversation described above?
Learn how to build trust from the trust expert, Stephen M.R. Covey. Free audio webinar:
Well in AA we call it Sponsoring(Hey Cathy wrote you back yesterday on yesterdays post) here it is called mentoring.
Thing about Sponsoring is if they don’t follow suggestions there are only 3 conclusions….jails, institutions and death. There is some leverage there let me tell ya.
Anyway what we are taught to do is SHARE ONLY our experience, strength and hope.
Why? You can’t BS a BS’er!!!!!!!!!!! When you start flapping your gums about stuff you THEORIZE people see right through that baloney.
Again if everything was started right, discovering WHY, then values and beliefs are aligned, when that is done both folks are rowing in the same direction. Simple enough for you yet?
If you do not understand WHY WHY is the starting point edu-ma-cate yourself. It is not opinion, it is biological, limbic brain stuff. NOT OPINION. Can you imagine someone deciding they are going to work against gravity????? WOWIE!
Anyway, there is a principle that is proof against all arguments that is bound to keep a man/woman in everlasting ignorance, that principle is contempt prior to investigation! Herbert Spencer aa big book appendix
I recommend if you do not know about something, suspend disbelief long enough to find out about it THEN share an informed opinion. Ya feelin me?
The Dude Abides!
I do not drink but if you must Du-Sock-EEZ my friend!
I am the most interesting man in the World!!!!!!!
SP OUTTA Here! ps again just my opinion, your differs does not mean you are wrong just means different. Different is cool! What makes the world go around, VARIETY! Can you even imagine what it would be like if all God’s kids were exactly the same????? YUCK!!!!
Thanks Scott… always interesting reading your contributions! 🙂
And thank you Dan, heard once people have the right to their own opinion, just not their own facts. I deeply appreciate having a chance to share my point of view.
I find it interesting 5 thumbs down but no explanation of the displeasure. hehe Wonder is it…. it is ok not to share an opinion if you have no basis for making it? Or working off experience instead of theory? Or just my opinion and it is cool if you don’t understand or like it?
Lordy, who disagrees with those three things?
You think it could be 5 theorist people who see something different than what they always see and automatically reject it without investigating who feel any other opinion but theirs is wrong? You know that black/white thinker types?
Makes ya think don’t it? hehe
Not sure Scott…I can’t see who gives ups or downs…I’d say it’s people who disagree
Love how you turn tension on its head, pointing out that it is the “unrealized potential of diversity”. That’s an interesting thought for me. When the unrealized potential is left alone, the relationship (and productivity) of the team atrophies.
Favorite quote: “Work relationships deserve more than just knee-jerk reactions.” True leadership means avoiding knee-jerk reactions in any area. In relationships, though, the knee-jerk almost always catches you right in the gut (not the first word that came to mind, but the most reader-friendly).
Apparently, I paraphrased the quote. But a “knee-jerk strategy” is as bad or worse than a “knee-jerk reaction”. When your plan is to freak out and drop a hammer, it’s worse than no plan at all.
We have had a long standing toxic work situation due to poor leadership. The stance was avoidance and now the situation has been festering for over a decade.
I agree that having team members determine what success looks and feels like and what they will do to make that happen is essential- I also believe that the leader must be able to take a good look and see for themselves for the root cause is.
In my experience, it is typically a power struggle, with an insecure person or persons at the core, fighting for turf or ascendency, that will not cede to others right to belong and participate. A failure of someone to pull their weight or earn their place at the table may also come into play.
While these things cannot be stated, the team cries out for fairness from the leader. All must feel they are respected and heard.
Thanks for including the search for root causes. A few other causes might be introvert/extrovert, task oriented/vision oriented, detail people vs. big picture people, pushing ahead vs. protecting gains, or risk tolerance to name a few.
I like to create some positive progress before addressing root causes. Sometimes things clear up with simple steps. Others times we realize there are deeper issues to deal with… often deeper issues come down to understanding and forgiveness.
Thankful you stopped in today.
Naah. The solution might be simpler than that… I read an article on better team building through chemistry, based on some Finnish research reported in a scientific journal.
See my explanatory framing blog at:
for a full report and links to the original. But here is an excerpt from the article:
“A man’s perspiration can influence the behavior of other men to become more cooperative and generous, a study says. Men with higher testosterone levels are more susceptible to suggestion from their clammy compatriots.”
They have yet to do this kind of research with men and women, but one can imagine, can’t one?
Serious research, Dan et al., but I would still rather use indoor board games for my team building initiatives! You can make your own decisions, of course…
Thanks for your suggestions and insights. Simplicity is good and perspiration matters. 🙂
One factor we haven’t addressed is intensity and duration of the tensions. I suspect they play a role in the way we address things.
For leaders, managers, superviors (and any combinations of same), this may be the one challenge that has to get the all-time first place vote for “Office Issue I’m Least Likely to Address Head-on.”
While diversity may contribute to tensions, when I trace most issues of staff tension back to their sources, they almost always boil down to a matter of miscommunication. Either that or a misinterpretation of what one person said to another. And then the tension builds from there . . . with all sorts of fictions being created on both sides.
As a leader, one role I play in meetings of my staff or outside project teams is that of clarifyer . . . “If I’m hearing correctly, is this what you mean when you say such and such?” For me it proves the value of active listening in EVERY situation. Clear communication goes a long way toward eliminating tensions.
Fantastic suggestion for establishing and maintaining healthy work relationships….we need more leaders who are strong enough to create clarity. It’s pretty easy to do if we just remember to ask the simple questions and restate things. Great add.
Dan, this is great article! Very interesting points.
Conflict and tensions are a normal part of relationships. Like it or not it will happen. And, when it happens, you can turn it into an opportunity or disaster.
I would add this — When you resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. And, trust is a glue that bonds people together. So, conflict can make your team stronger.
Thanks for your addition, Marko. My experience is, if we go through dark waters together we come out stronger on the other side.
You can also frame the conversation with each filling in the blanks, then sharing their thoughts:
When you do (or don’t do, etc.) _____
The consequences to me are ______
And it makes me feel _____ (now they’re not upsetting you, the consequences of actions are)
Instead, I would like you to ______
Is that something you can do?
Excellent suggestions Krazjim.
I seriously think about having folks write down answers. It’s a great way to get real, untainted responses. I appreciate your direct approach. So much depends on the people involved. Thanks for your insights.
I’m after suggestions, please. How to work with a team member who won’t listen, talks over others, denies the behaviour, and then projects it on to others? Very immature reactions to opinions that are different to hers? Any chance of changing this behaviour in a person in their mid 50’s who doesn’t see any need to change?
Record them and play it back. I assume being friends isn’t important.
Thanks for your response, Dan. It’s a difficult thing in such a small team (2 of us). I have considered this as an option, and sought legal advice from my employer’s lawyer. It’s legal, but WWIII might be the result. I’ll think some more on it.
Approach the issue by suggesting a communications Training seminar. This way it is a non confrontational correction to the issues.
This is a good article I would like to add one more point of preventative suggestion. Knowing each others communication styles in advance can reduce tension before it starts. There has been many attempts at crating a tool. Almost all have been burdensome and expensive and failed to evolve with time. I ran across one that is quick, as thorough as MBTI and Disc, immediately useable and half the cost or less. I recommend any one dealing with human interactions from sales to mentoring and health care teams take a look and contact the owner Jason Young for a tailored program. http://www.clienttypes.com If you want to try a 2-4 min demo do so here. http://www.clienttypestraining.com/survey/otu.php?otu_code=5h2UuYnOnOEWcdlK
Just want to double check on Step 10. It reads:
“Use responses to questions four and five to determine one or two things each person will do to build a great work relationship.”
But questions four and five don’t have “things” attached to them; they’re a numerical assessment.
Should Step 10 refer to questions seven and eight? Or am I misreading Step 10?
Frankly it’s an awkward sentence all the way round.
The idea of questions 4 and 5 is to determine how committed they are to building strong work relationships. Design projects, activities, and behaviors that align with their commitment level. If they aren’t that committed, give them low commitment activities. Of course, they should acknowledge that the work relationship isn’t that important. In that case, there should be no complaining if they don’t get along.