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Table Of Contents

5 Most Common Team Challenges (& How To Avoid Them)

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Table Of Contents

You know what they say: teamwork makes the dream work. Successfully managing a well-functioning team can feel a lot like riding in the backseat of a Ferrari. Unfortunately, as most managers know, the realities of dealing with team challenges often resemble the opposite: being stuck in traffic, on public transportation, and having to walk a lot. You get the picture.

Teams are where ideas are born, and they’re where those ideas come to life. However, teams can be tricky to handle, especially as a manager. With so many people on a team, there are bound to be countless team challenges to deal with. On the flip side, that’s also part of what makes overcoming them so interesting. 

So if you find yourself in the midst of battling some team challenges, these tips can help you overcome them. Keep reading to learn more!

Poor employee morale & engagement

Managers need to do more than hold meetings to keep their teams on track and working at their best.

After all, having high employee morale and engagement is crucial to the success of your business. Employees who are engaged:

  • Tend to commit themselves to their company’s mission 
  • Are willing to go the extra mile to help the organization achieve its goals
  • Complete their own tasks on time (and with ease)
  • Feel like they have a purpose and truly belong at work  

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It is. 

However, if you find your employees logging off before their working hours, having little to no motivation, or even quiet quitting at work, they’re most likely suffering from poor morale and engagement. And while it doesn’t seem obvious, having low levels of both can really affect your bottom line negatively.

How to fix it

If you think your team is suffering from these team challenges, don’t hesitate to get into the nitty-gritty details of exactly why. Is their workload too much? Are they having problems at work or home that affect their productivity? Or are they not feeling appreciated enough? Provide feedback, and gather some more.

The best way to go about doing so is by scheduling regular 1-on-1s with every member of your team. Use this time wisely — don’t waste it on discussing project updates or deadlines. Rather, discuss how your employees are actually feeling. Ask how they feel about their work, their accomplishments and how you can support them if need be. Don’t forget to throw in a compliment or two as well. Your kind words will go a long way, we promise!

Personality conflicts and tension 

Any team can suffer from personality conflicts.

We’ve all been there. Sometimes your coworker pushes your buttons, and the next thing you know, you’re in a shouting match in the conference room. Office tensions are the cause of many problems: from arguments and fights to severe productivity drops. 

Not only does the vibe feel uncomfortable for everyone involved, but you also start noticing unplanned absences and declined meetings. This leads to more and more tension within the office. And if one personality conflict goes unresolved, it tends to spread like a virus to other team members too. 

Hence, the tensions that arise in any workplace (no matter how big or small) can quickly lead to an explosion. This can ruin your team’s productivity, lead to poor morale, lost money on the table, and much more.

How to fix it

It is often easy to detect personality conflicts, but resolving them requires patience and good faith on all sides. Most conflicts can be avoided with good communication and a little understanding. 

Communication can be tricky in the workplace, but it’s critical to managing people effectively. So if you’re dealing with employee conflict or tension, don’t give in to your feelings of frustration.  Keep an eye out for when you notice signs of conflict to better understand the reason for employee conflict. Consider their different backgrounds & viewpoints. Then, ensure you communicate with everyone to find solid middle ground. 

Take some time to cool off and approach these conflicts with a sense of humor and a willingness to compromise — even if it means letting a little air out of your ego now and then.

Bad curveball management

Whether you like it or not, changes are inevitable at work.

We saw it happen overnight when the pandemic emerged and businesses worldwide were forced to adapt to remote work. Maybe Lina from Accounting can no longer take the lead on that important project due to a personal illness. Or maybe your right hand at work just decided to quit. What happens when you don’t manage change like this properly? It wreaks havoc on your team.

When change management isn’t handled properly, it can kill your team’s productivity. It makes sense since communication and change are like peas in a pod. Hence, rolling with the punches is a skill that you might want to incorporate into your team’s training. Dealing with team challenges like this is also important for your team to understand how to manage unexpected changes, since they often trigger stress.

How to fix it

Working with a team can be tricky, and change management is one of the chief sources of headaches. 

But if teams understand what they’re working toward and how they fit into the larger picture, they’ll feel more connected to their jobs. Furthermore, your organization will reap the benefits in terms of improved employee engagement. So if you find yourself dealing with the team challenges of having unexpected changes as a manager, learn to first articulate them and set new goals for your team. During the process of adopting new perspectives, your employees will probably also have many questions and struggles. Give them time to stabilize and focus, and be supportive. 

A lack of trust among team members

Let’s face the facts: people are generally terrible when it comes to trusting each other.

One of the most common reasons for team failure is that there isn’t enough trust. If a team doesn’t trust their leader or doesn’t think that their leader has their best interests at heart, then it is unlikely that the whole group will be willing to work together towards a common goal. You need a team that’s open, honest, and fun.

After all, having trust in your team members is the cornerstone of any successful team. A group of individuals that have trust in each other can work more effectively than those that do not have this fundamental building block. 

How to fix it

When you join or form a new team, trust is neutral: there is neither trust nor distrust. But the very first interaction determines whether you move upwards towards trust, or downwards towards distrust. Thus, creating a cohesive team is easier said than done. 

Start by communicating your intentions and reasons for doing something in order to minimize misunderstanding. It will give them a reason to trust what you’re doing and why. It is important to remember that trust is reciprocal. The more you trust and support your colleagues, the more likely they are to do the same for you.

Don’t forget to extend your trust to others. Don’t micromanage your team — clearly define goals, set expectations, and pull back. By doing so, you eliminate any suspicion of lack of trust, while simultaneously boosting employee morale and productivity.

Poor employee performance

Tackling poor performances is always a tricky situation. Unfortunately, it is something many managers have to face on a regular basis.

For a lot of employees, working in a team doesn’t come naturally. They may be introverts, or maybe too comfortable in their own skin, and are often hesitant to work collaboratively. Even though they are talented, the talent won’t necessarily shine while working in teams.

As with other common team challenges, tackling poor performances is always tricky. In a team of talented individuals, navigating relationships can be tough. Sometimes there are favorites. Sometimes there are under-performers. And every so often someone nails their performance. 

The goal of all good team leaders is to find and focus on the greatest potential in each team member. But if one is performing poorly, you have no choice but to give them a few words of encouragement so that they bounce back even harder.

How to fix it

Painting a negative picture of your team members can easily lead to finger-pointing and resentment, so it is important to swap out your direct words with some friendly language that will both soften the blow and increase the likelihood of success. 

A pro tip that’s worth following is to praise your employees in public, but provide all constructive criticism in private. Demonstrate empathy toward your underperforming employee. Provide them with clear feedback, and ask them if there are any reasons for their performance. Set new performance objectives for them and take a different approach to monitor them. To ensure that they perform to their potential, prepare them for future team projects and hold regular review meetings.

The bottom line

Ultimately, good team management boils down to good communication. Talk your issues out, and come up with a compromise that is agreeable to everyone involved when dealing with team challenges.

If you’re in charge of a team, it’s your responsibility to handle conflict in the most effective way possible. This is where being a good leader comes into play—you need to make sure that the situation is diffused and taken care of, while also making sure that your team doesn’t fall apart amidst the stress. That’s no easy feat, but it’s one that will make all of your projects run more smoothly in the long run. Above all else, remember that a team can only be as successful as its leader. When you’re thinking of ways to make your team more efficient, try looking in the mirror first. Your leadership is just as valuable as any other member.

Snigdha Gupta
Snigdha Gupta

An avid writer and aspiring marketer, Snigdha is a student at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business.

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