Tactics to Reduce Team Pettiness

BY Kathy Crosett
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Few issues can send your team’s productivity into a downward spiral faster than petty squabbling. Sometimes these squabbles move past verbal interaction and into the physical realm, where the involved people refuse to sit next to each other in meetings. Of course, these folks should know better. Since they don’t, it will be up to you, the manager, to take action. The longer you take to fix the problem, the more damage you risk to your team.

In these situations, managers might be tempted to take the role of a parent or school principal and tell the feuding parties to stop acting childish and to get back to work. We all know that strategy isn’t very effective. Margery Weinstein, in a trainingmag​.com column, reviews the advice of MaryEllen Tribby for alternative strategies.

One way to cut down on employee tendencies to whine about who’s getting the best assignments or getting to go to the good conferences, is to keep people very busy. Hold regular meetings designed to increase productivity. During each meeting, assign specific tasks to each attendee. Make it clear that you’ll be following up with each person to see how he or she is doing. The philosophy behind this strategy is the more people have to do, the less time they’ll have for keeping track of perceived unfairness.

Establish a regular morning meeting for the purpose of having company leaders announce what needs to be accomplished and where they are with respect to the big picture. This strategy gets everybody focused on what really matters. Team members can use the shared information to connect their roles to the major mission of the company. Frequently hearing about the mission builds loyalty and gives team members something concrete and positive to focus on.

You don’t need to force everyone on your team to be friends. But, for the sake of a healthy and productive workplace, you do need to ensure that people leave their petty differences at the door and are prepared and motivated to work together toward a common goal. Workplace tranquility usually doesn't happen on its own, so stay aware of squabbling and lead your employees by setting a positive example and taking deliberate actions to create a positive environment.