The Teamwork Paradox

Admit that we are not team workers, it is almost suicidal. Nevertheless, not many organizations preach this example.

Even if everyone agrees that teamwork is the best way of achieving organizational objectives, its application is difficult.

Team objectives are not always understood nor accepted by its team members. Often, members concentrate on their individual goals. The larger the organization or group; the more complex it becomes. Remember in school, it was hard to agree over distributing tasks in order to work together. Collaboration between the slacker, the underperformer—constantly late in their work—the valedictorian worried about their final grade, and sometimes yourself running into turbulent finals. It is always the same people busying themselves producing the final draft. In business, the scenario is similar with the sole difference being that objectives and deadlines are set by your paying employer. To become the best team player, knowing the biggest teamwork paradoxes in our organizations is important.

  • Work is organized into administrative silos where teams are aggregated by functions, competencies, and have limited—but obligated—interactions. Even matrix management, meant to force administrative units to collaborate, does not work. Take HR for example, they serve multiple clients internally, but are mainly composed of specialists—even among HR professionals—who sometimes have issues collaborating. Their remuneration function is a perfect example of something that is often caught between the internal salary scale and external market. Remuneration experts often clash with their colleagues in recruitment over hiring external candidates. Furthermore, a vice president of finance recently confided in me that his budgetary process looked like a civil war. His sales team outright refused to co-operate with his teams and would not accept their methods for calculating operating costs. As a result, the process stretched out dramatically and accounting almost became impossible.
  • Even though companies like to encourage teamwork, their assessment and payroll systems mainly remunerate individual performance. Employees often have difficulties understanding distribution rules even if some of their Christmas bonuses rest on achieving company objectives. Individual incentive is related to individual performance that is gauged during the annual assessment interview. Depending on this evaluation, the employee can be promoted, advance his internal career, gain training, and a raise. However, these mechanisms bring neither mutual assistance nor collaboration.
  • There is a discrepancy between collective and individual objectives. Companies must react quickly, innovate constantly, and face an increasingly complex environment. While on the other hand, employees look for the best balanced life while feeling increasingly disengaged in their organization. This divide deepens between the company’s expectations of their employees and what the latter looks for in their work. Here, we return to the heterogeneous group where the perfectionist, workaholic, nine-to-five employee, and slacker work together. Not all employees care about company growth and meeting their deadlines. We rarely choose our colleagues making up the team. When was the last time your cubicle neighbour asked for your opinion? Nevertheless, you should adapt to it because it might be the only common point shared between you.

No doubt, as far as treating teamwork goes, a type of hypocrisy manifests itself in creative mobilization seminars, collective motivation gurus, paintball matches, and other collectively cathartic activities.

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