While many tasks at work are completed by single individuals, workers are increasingly being asked to work cooperatively with others to meet workplace goals. In fact, the APA Practice Organization reports, "A 2006 Ken Blanchard Companies survey found that more than half of employees spend 30 percent of their time in a team setting, with a third spending 50 percent of their working hours in groups." With so much emphasis on teamwork, it is essential to know how to work effectively with coworkers.
Teams work together to problem solve more efficiently, with each team member offering a unique perspective to complex issues. According to Mary Guffey in Business Communication, "members recognize a need for each other's expertise, talents and commitment to achieve their goals." With each team using their strengths (such as one person writing, one inserting charts and analyzing data, one person researching costs, and another organizing the visuals for a presentation), a long-term project can come together with ease.
When teams work together, it is important to establish the purpose of the team; this will allow members to set clear goals. The ultimate goal of any team is to produce quality work for the company. For this reason, effective teams value open communication, treat each others as equals, and keep collaboration at the forefront by sharing information. Conflicts are resolved quickly within the group. The group schedules meetings on a regular basis to discuss the project's progress and meet deadlines.
Four Group Stages
Groups go through a period of transition before real work can be accomplished. In Business Communication, author Mary Guffey notes these stages as "forming, storming, norming and performing." The forming stage involves introductions and the setting of procedures and perimeters for the group. The storming stage has the greatest potential for conflict, as this is when members work out their roles, the rules and the goals they will meet. During the norming stage, members share information and work to maintain a spirit of solidarity. The final stage, performing, occurs when the team hits their stride, meaning that they are successfully able to handle personality issues and decision making; they enjoy the the free flow of ideas, produce more and successfully meet deadlines.
Team dynamics are important to successfully meet goals. No one person should be the official leader of a team; instead, everyone should be allowed to express ideas and feel their input is valued by others. Occasionally, however, someone might have to take a leadership role and step in when another member dominates the conversation, belittles the ideas of other team members or otherwise behaves disrespectfully toward others. Reminding the team of their common goals and highlighting achievements can help teams regroup and reaffirm their commitment to team harmony.
Determine how the team will reach decisions. Common methods are by majority, consensus or averaging. A few members may also be granted permission to make decisions for the whole group if all members cannot be present. A boss may also decide to evaluate team suggestions and make the final decision. Fernan Cepero, author of "Boost Teamwork and Morale by Valuing Diversity in the Workplace," reminds workers that coworkers are "not your competitors." Keep morale high by valuing everyone's suggestions and remembering that the success of the team means the success of the company.