In The Workplace

There’s no better choice than an eyeball-to-eyeball, face-to-face, physical meeting with colleagues to improve cooperation and team play. Now that we’re in a pandemic where many of us are working from home, how would you advise workers and managers on improving teamwork? — White Lily.

Theoretically speaking, many business organizations are dragged down by autocratic people managers who would want their workers to execute their instructions to the letter without complaint. With competition intensifying even during a pandemic when businesses are struggling to get things done even with many of their employees working from home, teamwork among people and their managers tends to suffer.

Part of the problem is when management believes in the virtues of teamwork by delivering constant pep talks but without giving any specific approaches on how the line executives can do it successfully.

At times, the issues are caused by the command-and-control style of some supervisors and their managers. Be that as it may, there’s much we can do to promote teamwork even for those people assigned to work from home. It is worthwhile to note that keeping employee morale high goes hand-in-hand with the need for cooperation and teamwork.

During the pandemic, many people are keeping on their toes to prevent a shutdown of their organization or fend off downsizing, retrenchment, or pay cuts. There’s no better time to think of enhancing teamwork and here is what I would recommend:

One, encourage everyone to stay flexible and positive. Everyone needs to bend some rules and regulations, if only to adjust to the dictates of the situation. Going by the book is important but may not be sufficient to solve certain issues brought about by COVID-19. To help meet the needs of the situation, there should be less time spent in useless online debate.

Two, establish the formal ground rules of teamwork engagement. This is related to number one above, with the intent of reducing, if not eliminating paralyzing online discussions. This allows everyone to react more quickly to all questions, issues, suggestions or ideas. And to implement this basic rule, the organization must agree to resolve all issues within 24 hours. You may even want to be strict about it by reducing it to 12 hours.

Three, decentralize problem-solving and decision-making. To complement the above techniques, it’s also worthwhile for top management to consider empowering managers and workers. Empowerment means providing sufficient, reasonable amounts of authority to those on the ground. In any kind of workplace, regardless of one’s product or service, teamwork is built on respect and trust.

Four, provide a different perspective, but don’t criticize. We can all encourage a team-oriented environment and nurture an army of inspired workers, if we can foster a cooperative work ethic daily without creating resentment. People don’t respond well when their opinion is openly attacked or harshly criticized. If that happens, people are less likely to voluntarily report their mistakes until it is too late.

Last, allow room for error and continuing adjustments. We are human beings prone to error and with varying comfort zones. This makes it difficult for any change to flourish, including the option of people working from home. As a result, any attempt by an organization to change is saddled with many issues like poor employee morale, which holds the potential to bring even profitable companies to their knees. Therefore, it must adjust accordingly to any issue that emerges.

The more everyone in a unit, section, department or division cooperates in getting the job done, the more productive an organization. To do just that, there must be some form of a periodic review that includes teamwork as part of everyone’s key performance metrics. Unfortunately, teamwork is often ignored by both managers and workers until a major issue comes along.

To encourage greater teamwork, we must place greater emphasis on every employee’s contribution. This requires management to be specific in telling people what they like and dislike about their performance as team players. Of course, management style is also critical.

People managers must set the right example day in, day out. If management leads by example, your own workers are more likely to be inspired to become team players themselves after observing your own approach. Therefore, if the workers see you as a team leader inside and outside of the organization, they will tend to follow your lead.


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