Withholding our energy, what we know, or even what we guess might be true, can hurt our teams when they face difficult situations. Unless team members feel safe enough to take reasonable risks, they limit their contributions to such an extent that team performance can suffer. Here's Part II of our little catalog of factors that can cause team members to hang back. Read Part I for more.
- Bully targets
- Some team members bully others, who then withdraw to find safety. They don't speak at meetings unless required to. They volunteer neither effort, nor opinion, nor information. They might be motivated, in part, by bitterness or anger, but the initial motivation is fear, which usually remains central. If bullying occurs in meetings, the team lead bears some responsibility, but if the bullying occurs elsewhere, the team might be unaware of it.
- Indirect bully targets
- Some people, aware of bullying by one or more team members, aren't targets themselves. Intimidated into near-silence, they seek safety by hanging back, depriving the team of their contributions. Their withholding seems mysterious, because there are no direct interactions that could explain it.
- Clique excludees
- Some teams harbor cliques whose relationships are much stronger than their relationships with other team members. Even when the clique intends no malice, others can feel excluded. Over time, perceived exclusionary incidents can cause excludees to "check out." They cease trying to gain acceptance, because previous efforts have produced such small returns. Clique members then might feel judged, and might begin to actively exclude the excludees. Enmity can develop from nothing.
- Airdropped team leads
- The airdropped team lead (ADTL) arrived when the previous team lead left unexpectedly. Unhappy about the assignment, the ADTL sometimes knows (or cares) little about the task or the team's status, which can prevent the ADTL from anticipating difficulties, or resolving existing difficulties. Viewing their assignments as dues to be paid, ADTLs accept them believing that "stepping up" will help their careers. ADTLs sometimes set unachievable goals for their teams, either out of repressed anger, out of ignorance, or to prove their own worth.
- Some team members Some team members bully
others, who then withdraw
to find safetyare replacements for those reassigned following a "staff raid" by another team. Replacements are sometimes less capable than the people they replace. When they and the rest of the team know or believe that, replacements can feel unwanted and "less than." Unless replacements feel respected, they can withdraw into themselves, thinking that by just doing their jobs they can get through this assignment and someday find one that comes with some respect.
With so many alternative explanations to consider, it's remarkable how often — and how quickly — people decide that the person who hangs back is the only one making the bad choice. First in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True
- Maxims and rules make life simpler by eliminating decisions. And they have a price: they sometimes foreclose
options that would have worked better than anything else. Here are some things we believe in maybe a
little too much.
- Communication Traps for Virtual Teams: II
- Communication can be problematic for any team, especially under pressure. But virtual teams face challenges
that are less common in face-to-face teams. Here's Part II of a little catalog with some recommendations.
- Exasperation Generators: Irrelevant Detail
- When people relate stories at work, what seems important to one person can feel irrelevant to someone
else. Being subjected to one irrelevant detail after another can be as exasperating as being told repeatedly
to get to the point. How can we find a balance?
- How to Deal with Holding Back
- When group members voluntarily restrict their contributions to group efforts, group success is threatened
and high performance becomes impossible. How can we reduce the incidence of holding back?
- Unethical Coordination
- When an internal department or an external vendor is charged with managing information about a large
project, a conflict of interest can develop. That conflict presents opportunities for unethical behavior.
What's the nature of that conflict, and what ethical breaches can occur?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 27: Implicit Interrogations
- Investigations at work can begin with implicit interrogations — implicit because they're unannounced and unacknowledged. The goal is to determine what people did or knew without revealing that an investigation is underway. When asked, those conducting these interrogations often deny they're doing it. What's the nature of implicit interrogations? Available here and by RSS on November 27.
- And on December 4: Implicit Interrogation Tactics
- When one person tries surreptitiously to extract information from another at work, an implicit interrogation is taking place. Here are seven tactics that people use to interrogate others without revealing what they're doing. Available here and by RSS on December 4.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.