Keeping groups of people on the same page is rarely easy, especially when they’re operating under stress. Whether your team members have worked together for years or are new hires, they’re bound to face challenges. Many factors can lead to team disunity in times of high pressure. Some common examples include personality conflicts, miscommunication, and disagreements on how to best tackle assignments.
When it comes to managing a team, you should expect to encounter some difficulties. How you deal with those difficulties can either unify your team or divide them even more. Here are five ways to help your team get through tough times while maintaining a sense of unity and cooperation.
1. Emphasize Strategy Alignment
Priority conflicts can destroy the cohesiveness of even the most cooperative teams. If you’re giving top-down directives that aren’t properly communicated to the entire team, things will likely fall into disarray. A breakdown in communication at any point in the chain of command can lead to missed deadlines and finger-pointing.
To keep this all-too-common scenario from happening on your watch, emphasize strategy alignment throughout your company. Strategic alignment occurs when you clearly define management expectations so your entire team stays in sync. To achieve true strategy alignment, you must also give your team members clearly defined objectives and duties. This will help the team avoid priority conflicts and work more harmoniously to meet expectations.
2. Watch for Burnout
Approximately 76% of employees have experienced burnout at some point in their professional careers. This alarming statistic reveals how important it is to keep a close eye on your team members. Too often, leadership fails to recognize the early signs of burnout and continues to push teams to the breaking point.
Burnout can lead to increased employee sick days, plummeting company-wide morale, and poor project execution. You may crush that short-term deadline by overworking your team, but you’ll pay for it in the long run. To prevent burnout, give the occasional personal day as needed and create a work environment that’s rejuvenating and encouraging. Keep in mind that a positive work environment is just as important to employee mental health as establishing reasonable workloads.
3. Referee Conflict and Tension
Contrary to popular belief, conflict and tension can potentially lead to positive outcomes. Diverse opinions can prompt innovative solutions that are unlikely to arise from groupthink. Then again, unresolved conflicts can also cause your team to fall apart and become dysfunctional. When you bring diverse personality types together, you’re bound to see some differences of opinion. Teach your team to handle those differences in constructive ways so they can remain unified even when they disagree.
Since you can’t magically get rid of team conflicts, the key to handling them is to become a referee. Allow and encourage your team members to work things out in a peaceful way. But always monitor the situation carefully so things don’t get out of hand. As team members hash out their disagreements in a safe environment, they learn how to engage with each other. They’ll also learn how to respect differing opinions and compromise so they can get things done.
4. Crowdsource Your Meetings
When things get down to the wire, it’s common for management to hold more meetings than usual. A looming product release date or big corporate event can cause tensions — and blood pressure — to rise. But pointless or disorganized meetings can have the same outcomes. If your meetings don’t address your team members’ concerns, they’re not going to have the outcome you desire. In times of high stress, consider crowdsourcing your meetings to get the most out of them.
Send anonymous polls to employees asking what topics they would like to see covered in meetings. Find out what concerns they currently have, what challenges they’re facing, and their suggested resolutions. When you design your meetings around attendees’ needs and concerns, you improve team unity. You also avoid wasting time on fruitless meetings that only make the work environment more stressful.
5. Make Time for Fun
The words “fun” and “deadlines” aren’t typically seen as compatible. In fact, the problem with many managers is that they make all forms of amusement feel like a workplace sin. However, one of the best ways to avoid employee burnout during challenging times is to have a little fun. A surprising study by Brigham Young University reveals that teams can boost productivity by 20% when they have fun together.
Pausing in the middle of a stressful workday to exchange hilarious GIFs on Slack may be just what your team needs to destress. Or you can turn a longer-than-normal workday into a pizza party. This will undoubtedly make it easier for your employees to work overtime to meet an imminent deadline. Engaging in playful fun can foster innovation, boost energy levels, and keep your team united even when working under pressure.
Your team is bound to face challenges at some point — probably at multiple points. Whether those challenges come in the form of difficult deadlines or personality conflicts, maintaining team unity is essential. Use the strategies above to keep your team on the same page even when internal or external pressures threaten to pull them apart.