Which effects harm teamwork?

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Some socio-psychological effects involuntarily turn teamwork into a frustrating experience. © Christin Klose/dpa-tmn

One is a slacker, the other really picky: When working as a team, values ​​collide. That causes conflict. Does success come when teams better understand such social dynamics?

Vienna – Who doesn’t know it? After only a short time in the new team, you have the feeling that you are really taking care of the project on your own. Or your colleagues are very picky and you hardly get to bring your strengths to bear.

In the end you are convinced: Teamwork only brings frustration! Psychological processes and social dynamics are often at work in the background, which you can control with a little knowledge. Experts explain what to look out for.

Free rider and sucker effect:

The problem: The free rider effect, also known as social laziness, describes a phenomenon in which individual group members supposedly lean back and rest on the achievements of others. In return, the other team members experience the so-called sucker effect, whereby they reduce their performance out of defiance because they have the impression that the others are taking advantage of them.

In the end, tasks often remain unsolved or are solved inadequately. Conflicts are of course inevitable. “When a team member withdraws, there can be many reasons, but willful laziness is usually not behind it,” says the leadership coach and organizational developer Matthias Wagner.

The solution: In fact, people often come together in a team who not only have different strengths, but also perform differently. But that can be the strength of a team, says communication expert and team developer Peter Rach.

The key is recognizing that not everyone has to be at the same level. It is important that everyone can contribute their fair share to accomplishing a task with their skills and personality. Above all, this requires an open and intensive discussion about strengths and weaknesses among the team members, according to Wagner.

The fundamental attribution error:

The problem: This psychological phenomenon occurs frequently in all of us: when we see colleagues making a mistake, we immediately accuse them of being stupid or having bad intentions. But if the same mistake happens to us, we have situational reasons for it ready.

The mutual negative evaluation of the performance usually arises from misunderstandings, but the resulting anger creates conflicts in the team.

The solution: “The best thing to do is hesitate with a hasty assessment and ask yourself: Why would I do something like this person, why would a normal, nice colleague act like this? Just one possible answer turns the villain back into a human being,” advises Peter Rach.

Group think or “Group think”:

The problem: groups develop their own social dynamics, in which one member often asserts itself as the opinion leader, which all others agree with, even if they do not necessarily share the same opinion. But the fear of being excluded prevails. Then a very compliant group emerges, in which everyone has the same opinion. A common groupthink develops. There is no more contradiction.

The solution: “But groups develop the best ideas when as many different opinions as possible are discussed,” says Peter Rach. That’s why it’s worth consciously entering the discussion with the task of representing the opposite opinion.

A person can also be designated as devil’s advocate and consciously bring counter-arguments into the discussion. If it’s clear that dissent is that person’s role on the team, then there aren’t any negative social repercussions either. dpa


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