When managed wisely, competition between teams can energize productivity – especially when they do the same tasks – because everyone can compare apples to apples. But when one team juggles apples and the other juggles cats, that competition can drain everyone involved because of the naturally resulting conflicts – which also drain profits.
If you see these teams in your company, you probably experience the chaos; and if you lead one of them, you’re exhausted. Untangling the mess is not simple because there are so very many factors driving suspicion and the self-protective responses to it. As leaders, we usually just continue to fight the daily skirmishes because we can’t find allies willing to go to war for the peace – or even the profits – that could result from such a tremendous effort. If you live in a world like this, there is hope, but you must find those allies and then you must prepare for the battles….
FIRST, DO NO HARM!
You and your colleagues who lead these teams must examine yourselves first to ensure you or your executives are not fanning the flames caused from the friction when your team members collide:
Are you rewarding customer sabotage or marketing sabotage? Impractical performance numbers often lead employees to invent ‘work-arounds’ that have damaging results: 1) hurting the customer by hindering another team’s service ability or 2) misapplying marketing tools that actually decrease profit. Often these ‘tips’ were shared as a way to improve their personal results, and employees are blind to the resulting damage.
Is the way you compensate teams fueling animosity? Often there is a reason for pay differences, but if one team does not understand or appreciate the expertise, pressure or expectations that drive that variance, negative feelings can fuel retribution, and perceived disrespectful shown by the higher paid employees to the lower paid ones can be even more damaging.
Is there an inequality in the learning or coaching provided to the team members? Perception of discrepancies between career development opportunities often fosters a kind of step-child syndrome between groups.
Did a leader light a slow-burning fuse that has everyone waiting for the explosion? History has a tendency to blow up instead of blowing over in situations like this….
Is more consistent accountability needed to level the playing field? Leadership allies must be willing to look in the mirror and into the other team’s back yard to ensure rumors or management inequities are not fueling damaging perceptions.
PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF!
Before you can expect the members of these teams to engage in solutions or common direction, you, as their leaders – and usually, your leaders also – will need to identify the blockades you control. That is the first step in preparing for this battle to regain ground that may have been lost by neglecting inequities, trust and profits. You don’t have to tackle this alone. Pepperbox Solutions has years of experience helping leaders and team members identify and disarm explosive situations.