Teamwork. What do you think of when I say that? Do you think of something generic like teamwork is the ability to work together towards a common goal? Or do you think of something more specific? For example, I think of teamwork as being able to communicate with those I work with and know that we are all on the same page.
Whether you’re thinking of teamwork in the generic sense or in a more specific one, the truth is, most of us do not know the truly profound impact it can have on our work life. So many businesses– big and small– do not utilize and harness the power of teamwork to their advantage, leaving their team to develop a dog-eat-dog mentality, in which everyone is so concerned about the security of their jobs, they’ll resort to aggressive competition tactics: gossip, backstabbing, and other nefarious means to either keep their jobs or position themselves as a higher authority.
You basically have the Walking Dead on your hands; everyone is just trying to get out alive.
This environment is toxic not just to the staff and the business but to the patients. Think about it. We are all influenced by the world around us, so if that world is suddenly tense and extremely negative, we feel it and are more often than not affected by it. Patients sensitive to this change in atmosphere can become difficult to work with and may even decide they do not feel safe enough or comfortable enough to return.
Unfortunately, it seems that giving out pez-shaped pieces of advice as to how to utilize teamwork or even attempting to define it as something crucial to your practice isn’t going to work. But a very popular phrase convinces me that, maybe if you can see just what a business looks like that is not enforcing the positive values of teamwork, you might see just how crucial it really is. You can’t miss something until it’s gone, right? So below is what your practice could look like without properly utilizing the role of teamwork.
No effective communication
Communication is the cornerstone of a good business and a well-organized staff, but if you’ve worked in an environment devoid of teamwork, you know that communication gets lost and changed and passed on to some people but not others. This results in lower morale, disorganization, hierarchy issues, and positions being neglected. If communication is the cornerstone and it goes missing, what’s left but a crumbling business? As a real world example, just take a look at what’s going on with the new White House administration. Some people in the administration are saying one thing while others are saying something different. No one is communicating. No one knows what anyone is doing and the entire government is in chaos. Talk about lack of teamwork having a real impact.
Nobody knows their position
Do you have an idea of what you’re supposed to be doing or does your job change from day to day? How many jobs are you juggling? In offices without teamwork, this particular issue is extremely prominent. Instead of everyone being designated to a specific position, everyone is all over the place, leaving certain positions vacant and other positions with too many or not enough people to handle them. It also fosters an environment of mistrust between co-workers as well as stress on those who feel they are carrying the majority of the workload while others are “slacking.” Some will even go so far as to say they’re bored because they don’t know what to do and do not have a specified list of duties to follow.
This one goes hand-in-hand with having no effective communication. I experienced many positions in which one manager would come to me and tell me to do something and then another would come and tell me to do something else. I even had one manager give me instructions only for another to tell me I was doing the job wrong and proceeded to give me their instructions. It was frustrating and stressful and exhausting. I no longer knew what I was supposed to be doing because two managers refused to talk to each other and come to some sort of agreement. Teamwork requires not just the staff but also the management to work together; if they don’t, situations like mine occur and can result in frustrated staff and extremely high turnover rates.
The term gossip means many things to many people, but if you remember being a teenager and suffering through high school gossip, you know it can turn the air to poison very fast. Even those not directly involved will be affected by it in some way, whether it’s by being stuck in the middle of it or just feeling the effects of it in the atmosphere. Have you heard people around you say, they don’t get involved in office politics? Well, I’m one of them, because by office politics, they mean, office gossip. It should be no surprise that gossip can destroy the working relationship and decimate any chance for trust between co-workers.
I have witnessed this kind of attack in the workplace and at one point had to step up and defend the person being attacked as it was unprovoked. Backstabbing is one of the worst things that can develop in an office without teamwork. This is the unfortunate and heartbreaking result of a team unable to compromise and work together. People become insecure and scared for their jobs. The atmosphere grows hostile and soon people are stabbing others in the back in any way they can so they don’t lose their jobs. No one can trust anyone because anything they say can be taken out of context and brought to a manager or boss. At this point, everyone starts to adopt a dog-eat-dog mentality. It’s an office that focuses almost completely on me me me and no one else, eroding values that are incredibly important to a successful business: empathy, compassion, kindness, courtesy, and benevolence.
All of these negative qualities culminate in high turnover rates, upset and angry staff members, patient loss (because what patient can honestly handle all this negativity?), a generally toxic atmosphere in the office, and an insecure place for anyone to work. It can even affect how you feel about the job you love.
To understand what I mean, there is a popular game going viral online right now called Would You Rather, so answer this question honestly: Would you rather have your dream job in an office that focuses on “me me me” Or would you rather do your least favorite job in an office that utilizes teamwork and focuses on “we we we?” If you can’t feel safe, secure and happy while doing your dream job, that dream could easily turn into a nightmare. If you favored the positive environment over the negative despite working in your least favorite position, you understand that all offices, big and small, need and must utilize teamwork as not just a word or a generic definition, but as a call-to-action to avoid this dog-eat-dog mentality.
Stay tuned for Tuesday’s companion post that gives you just some suggestions for how to utilize and harness the positive power of teamwork.