I got a call the other day from a leader who wants me to take a look at his Marketing department. “Sales are lagging,” he said. “The Sales team doesn’t feel as though Marketing is providing them with enough leads, and Marketing thinks it’s the fault of Sales for not following up on them.” This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the frustration; departments often blame each other for poor overall organizational performance. Of course criticizing other departments is the easiest way for team members to bond. The team finds common ground, but uses the most toxic form of bonding material.Misery definitely loves company, but the company doesn’t love it back.
Organizational leaders may think that the best way to solve this problem is by having the toxic teams shadow each other: walk a mile in the other department’s shoes for a month, a week, even a day, and the critics will soon realize that the “offending” department has complexities, challenges, personalities and individual needs never imagined. Well, this is true, but it’s only addressing the manifestation rather than the cause of the problem.
So how to get at its root? We often hear that those who are most critical of others are people who are unhappy with themselves; by pointing a finger outward, it makes them feel at least one level above their victims. This goes for departments as well:the problem lies within.
So before you look at processes, technology and the relationship between departments, look at people and the roles they hold – because no matter how clinically you want to look at business, the inevitability is that it’s run by flawed entities commonly known as human beings...
Within a dysfunctional department, you may find a few team members who are productive and content. But you will often identify these types:
The Overworked - Does a job that combines two jobs, possibly a former job in addition to her new job, or to whom new responsibility is given without a title change or raise.
The Underworked - Has a lighter workload than others and is resented by other team members.
The Overpromoted - Promoted into a job for which he is not qualified, leading to insecurity that his lack of skills will be “found out.”
The Obsolete - Continues to do a job that could be eliminated or outsourced, and lives in fear of being let go.
The Diva - High performer who knows he won’t be fired, and whose bad behavior is both infamous and shrugged off.
The person that represents each of these types often has great talent and potential, but is sitting in a role that isn't quite suitable. To begin tackling the problem, determine what the organization is trying to achieve and then work from the people-side of the equation, interviewing each team member, finding out what they do, what they like and do not like about their jobs, and their career goals. Then assess processes and technology resources. Countless dollars have been spent by managers on process improvement – with few long term-results. And no wonder: they haven’t accounted for the people.
When I finish this type of analysis, I put together a proposal that takes the form of a re-engineered department and organization chart, approved by the team. It also includes process maps and technology recommendations. But its main focus is on people. My goal is always to retain the same staff members but give them revised and better-defined positions, with opportunities to learn new technology and follow refined processes that reduce stress.
The result? Within three months, most employees in the department are re-energized. A few will initially struggle with change but eventually adapt because they find they are intrinsically happier. If someone leaves, it’s almost invariably the employee who was most toxic to the team in the first place, and the shift in team mood leaves him with no company. Without that employee, the team tends to gain additional positive energy.
Happy teams focus inward on their work and accomplishments, leading to greater productivity. And, happy teams spread goodwill rather than toxicity.
Is your organization not getting the results you want? It may be based on team misery! Contact us!