Teams have high tension for a reason

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Dec 15

Teamwork is the success linchpin for a manager: results come from the work done by the team. How’s that teamwork thing working out for you? Really great? Everyone happy? Not a lot of tension, but, instead, great results?

Lucky you. If you’re not getting those types of answers with the team you are on, there’s probably a good reason for that. When there is a high disparity in performance on a team, the result is great tension on the team.

Not your fault; it is how humans react to each other on a team. When there is a high disparity in performance on a team, the problems start…

Low performers don’t carry their own weight on the team

If there are ten people on your team and two people never deliver their stuff on time or with the right quality, resentment from the rest of the team begins because these two people aren’t carrying their own weight. Other people on the team have to start checking the work of the two poor performers to make sure the entire team doesn’t get nailed for not doing stuff right. They start to cover the poor performers — and pull their own performance down in the process.

High performers have no rewards for high performance

When you have SMART Goals that include team performance, high performers on the team get their ratings dragged down when a team doesn’t perform at the same level as the high performer. If there are several team goals, versus individual goals, the math can cost a high performer one whole rating lower.

And the high performer knows it. That causes a lot of tension and frustration on the team (and with the manager…).

The team never gets solid direction

Instead of working towards one goal, the team almost has to do their work in different work streams: one for what the high-end of the group can do with better performers and another one for the group of lower performers. It doesn’t play out this clearly, of course, but if you have a lot of tension on your team, look at how  tasks to the team get assigned from the manager. You’ll see a big difference in assigned tasks for each person to compensate for the difference in performance levels. The lower performers complain about the plum assignments given to high performers and the high performers resent how they are given the toughest assignments while the lower performers get a cakewalk that allows them to easily hit their goals, their ratings and their raise.

The best teams are ones with equal levels of performance

Look, most of us get assigned to teams by our managers; it’s not like we have a choice. But if you do get a choice, such as when you are taking a new position, check out the team performance. If it’s filled with tension or you can tell there is a wide disparity in the team performance, chances are a Cubicle Warrior will get dragged down into the mud of a lower performing team. And if you join a team that has a higher level of performance than you have, thank your lucky stars and get to that higher level — or risk having all sorts of resentment start coming your way for not pulling your own weight on the team.

How is your team’s tension?