According to the press release from Fierce Inc. study, 86 percent of respondents blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures (Fierce, 2011). Collaboration and effective communication are some of the fundamental attributes of teamwork in the workplace without which a team could get frustrated instead of efficient. A study done by Ernst & Young revealed that the lack of workplace teamwork is one of the top five reasons people quit their jobs (Ernst & Young, 2015). This essay examines teamwork in the workplace by stating its advantages and corresponding challenges.
It explores how teamwork could positively impact an organization while revealing some of the challenges that could arise when a teamwork approach is used to meet business needs in the workplace.
A set of people working together to achieve a common goal does not necessarily imply that they are working as a team (Brighthr, n.d.). They may just be doing what they know best without understanding how it connects to other team members and without understanding how to communicate with other team members in an effective way.
Teamwork is therefore not just an effort of a group of people but rather, a collaborative result oriented effort of the group to achieve a common goal in the most effective and efficient way (Teamwork, 2019).
According to Business dictionary, teamwork means that people will try to cooperate, leveraging on their individual skills while giving constructive feedback to other team members, irrespective of any personal conflict between them (Business World, 2019). Webster dictionary complements this as it defines teamwork as work done by colleagues with each doing a part but everyone subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole (Teamwork, n.
d.). Teamwork is about promoting a diverse mix of different people with varying skillsets that, when brought together, create a sum that is greater than the parts. The concept of teamwork has to be put in a specific context since it involves a set of persons working together to achieve a common goal. These contexts range from an industrial organization (formal work teams or workplace), athletics (sports teams), a school (classmates working on a project), and the healthcare system (operating room teams), etc. (Brighthr, n.d.). For this essay the context would be in the workplace. Oxford dictionary defines workplace as “a place where people work such as an office or a factory” (Oxford, 2019).
So being a member of a team is one aspect; but working effectively together as a team is a completely different issue which is fundamental to achieving results in the workplace (Smash.vc, 2019). Team members must be flexible enough to adapt to cooperative working environments where goals are achieved through collaboration and social interdependence rather than individualized, competitive goals (Luca & Tarricone, 2001). Hence, understanding the attributes that make up effective teamwork is crucial in the workplace. For members of the team to pass relevant information to each other there has to be effective communication between them. Hence, we could say that effective communication is one of the fundamental attributes of a team. According to Brighthr there are 4Cs’ that capture attributes of teamwork namely communication, commitment, contribution and collaboration (Brighthr, n.d.). Schoultz identified ten attributes of an effective team namely: clear direction, open and honest communication, support risk-taking and change, defined roles, mutually accountable, communicate freely, common goals, encourage clear differences in opinions, collaboration and team trust (Schoultz, 2017). Hence, merging these attributes with that of Deering we could deduce that the attributes of an effective teamwork centre around: effective communication, defined team objective, defined roles, effective collaboration, mutual accountability and diversity of skills (Deering, 2015).
From my experience as a team lead in my department, once teams within a department could be made to work together effectively the impact could be remarkable. This is in line with the article of Business Matters UK article in 2018, which opines one of the benefits of teamwork as increased business efficiency. Teamwork gives an opportunity for collaborative working between team members and as such improve creativity within employees (Brighthr, n.d.). Team members can easily learn new skills from one another and can also enhance new communication skills such as negotiation. Less experienced employees can learn a lot from their more experienced co-workers and vis-versa. Sometimes when someone has been in a job for a long period of time, they could find it difficult to review tasks from a different perspective, so working with a team can present opportunities for this to happen (Schnitzer, 2019). By bringing employees that complement each other’s skills together, they can subdue challenges that they may not have been able to individually without the help of other team members.
Schnitzer supports this by stating that teamwork essentially promotes workers to be open and solve problems together, breaking creative barriers with other employees based on each other’s strengths and weaknesses (Schnitzer, 2019). For an instance, a colleague may be great at analysis and the other is good at developing reports, the synergy of those two skillsets would produce in a higher standard of report. A team that works closely and communicates effectively are more likely to benefit from efficiencies because talking to each other about problems can easily find solutions, rather than one employee trying to work out a solution alone for hours. Effective communication also eliminates redundancy of efforts because everyone would be aware of the input of the other. Furthermore, team tasks can overlap in terms of roles; so clear communication can reduce that risk of duplication and wasted man-hours. Hence, improved business efficiencies can greatly reduce the operational cost of business operations. An example of this is someone introducing a way of using a digitization application to speed up a process or removing unnecessary steps in a task.
Another benefit of teamwork is: enhanced employee motivation (Business Matters, 2018). Employees can help to motivate their peers, either through supporting them or even leading by example in terms of their attitude to work. When employees feel isolated, it can be difficult to find motivation but when they feel that others in the team support them, it can give them a real boost of morale and motivation (Schnitzer, 2019). Furthermore, employees that suffer from low self-esteem may particularly benefit from seeing other members of the team do well and start to believe more in their own capabilities (Schnitzer, 2019). Enhanced employee motivation results in a better sense of accomplishment (Business Matters, 2018).
A team can achieve much greater things than one single individual and it is easier to see the impact of a successful project when you see the team output rather than the smaller tasks that one person has completed. Having team goals also can encourage employees to work harder to ensure that they do not let others down. When employees in the workplace are motivated and have a sense of accomplishment, there would most likely be a low tendency for them to leave the job. This results in improved employee retention in the workplace (Business Matters, 2018). When an employee feels part of the team, with colleagues that they enjoy working with, they are more likely to feel happy in their job and therefore are more likely to stay working for the company. Recruiting new staff is a very costly process and one that can easily be avoided by keeping employees happy – creating a united team is one of the great ways of doing this, as well as making the employee feel valued for their work. The lack of workplace teamwork is one of the top five reasons people quit their jobs (Ernst & Young, 2015).
Teamwork in the workplace also has its challenges as it is not always easy to work as a team in organizations that are multicultural with a lot of diversity. According to the survey conducted by Fierce Inc. on her customers, workplace communication problems amongst teams slow down projects, productivity, and ultimately impact client retention as well as employee retention (Fierce Inc., 2011). Schnitzer sited that almost 50 percent of employees who have worked in large teams admitted that it is difficult due to the different working styles of the team members (Schnitzer, 2019). He further confirmed these statistics with a study that interviewed more than 1,000 US employees. The outcome was that more than a third of employees said alignment is the biggest challenge to successful business execution (Schnitzer, 2019). In practice, problems often occur when staff members from a variety of professions have different interpretations of the purpose of the team’s work or apply different perspectives; resulting in different rationalities and priorities (Hall, 2005; Kvarnström, 2008; Rydenfält, Johansson, Larsson, Åkerman, & Odenrick, 2012). This implies that some companies may not be investing the right amount of time and resources to encourage teamwork (Schnitzer, 2019).
A study done by Ernst & Young revealed that not every business issue requires a team-based approach because teams could actually slow down the process of meeting an urgent goal in the organization (Ernst & Young, 2013). Furthermore, a team could actually frustrate the efficiency of the organization if strong leadership is not implemented (Ernst & Young, 2013). This is particularly important when the roles of the team members keep shifting due to changing business requirements. This is in agreement with the study done by Ernst & Young on 821 business executives cutting across fourteen countries from Asia-Pacific, Europe, and America. Almost half agree that their company does not have the right leaders to manage and motivate teams (Ernst & Young, 2013). We could therefore state that poor team leadership could frustrate the efforts of a great team. So one of the major challenges of teamwork is appointing a good team leader.
Teamwork is very vital to increased efficiency in the workplace because it is a collaborative result-oriented effort focussed on achieving a common goal in the most effective and efficient way. As impactful as teamwork is, it could be frustrating if the workplace management does not give the appropriate attention to it, particularly in appointing suitable leaders for the respective teams and investing in relevant development programs that encourage teamwork.
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