Is subtle resentment destroying your business team?

When people work together on a business team, they become a bit like a family. That doesn’t mean they spend idyllic hours together engaged in mutual admiration and fulfillment. Quite the opposite. Often times, a subtle negativity creeps in that sabotages the team. Deal with it before the cancer metasticizes.

Get It Out In the Open

The most important thing to do is to get everything out in the open. You want to give your team a chance to air grievances. Often times, just getting everything out in the open can make the problem go away. People are, for the most part, pretty reasonable. When confronted by colleagues with problem behaviors or irritants, they’ll be happy to modify their behavior within reason.

Keep It Behavior-Oriented

It’s highly unlikely that personal problems are actually personal. Rather, they are a result of behaviors. Someone is doing (or not doing) something that someone else doesn’t like. Airing this in a way that concentrates on the behavior prevents new resentments from arising in the place of old ones. Besides, griping and clearing the air aren’t the same thing.

Seek Resolution

You don’t want a bull session that results in nothing. You want resolution. Get your team members to agree to reasonable modifications of behavior. If there are unprofessional behaviors bothering people, they need to end. There’s just no two ways about it. Conversely, if a team member feels that another person isn’t pulling his weight, ask how one can show he is contributing to the other’s satisfaction. At the end of the meeting, have everyone make commitments to make changes for the better of the group.

Hold People Accountable

Check in after a certain period of time. See if people are following through on what they promised. If they aren’t, ask why and tell them you expect changes where reasonable. If it turns out that expectations weren’t reasonable, modify those expectations. But be proactive in making sure people make attempts to follow through on their promises.

Be Proactive

Proactivity doesn’t just mean seeing that other people have followed through. It means monitoring the situation as it unfolds. Reprimanding someone in public is never good form, particularly for personal behavior. Taking someone aside, however, and reminding him of his commitment to the group isn’t just good form -- it’s absolutely required to keep things running smoothly.

Break the Tension

After a meeting when the air has been cleared there might be tension and awkwardness. Breaking that tension will get things going back on the right foot. Bring everyone out to lunch or engage in a fun team-building exercise. The point is to get people interacting in a fun and social way to (temporarily) forget everything that was just talked about. This is the best way to end a tense and difficult meeting. Everyone can get their game face on when you head back to the office. In the meantime, the situation calls for a game of laser tag, a good meal or a round of bumper cars.