Teamwork Defination


A team, in an organisational context, can be defined as a unit of two or more people who interact and co-ordinate actively to meet a particular organisational objective.

A team is more than just a collection of skilled individuals. They must share a collective vision and work together to achieve a common objective. Finally the team’s objectives and goals must be in line with the organisations.


The importance of teams and teamwork stems from the need for organisations to be flexible and responsive to customer requirements in an increasingly competitive market, while at the same time ensuring that management and staff work together to meet these changing business needs.

The benefits that can be gained through teamwork include:

  • Increased Performance: Teams tend to produce more than if each person were to work alone. Teams develop a synergy where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  • Increased Responsiveness: Because of the range of skills available in a team, they are better able and quicker to respond to changes.
  • Increased Innovation: While an individual can produce the initial idea, a range of skills will be required to develop and implement the idea.
  • Increased Motivation: Generally speaking people experience a stronger sense of satisfaction and motivation from working in a successful team than working on their own. However a poorly managed and performing team can be de-motivating.


Different types of teams exist within organisations to perform a variety of activities. There are two main categories of teams:

  • Formal Teams
  • Self Directed Teams

Formal Teams

Formal teams are created by the organisation as part of the formal organisational structure. The four most common types of formal teams are:

  • Vertical Teams
  • Horizontal Teams
  • Special Purpose Teams
  • Committee

Vertical Teams

A vertical team usually refers to a manager and their direct reports (subordinated) in an organisation’s formal structure. A vertical team can also be referred to as a functional team.

Horizontal Teams

This type of team is composed of employees of a similar hierarchical level but from different functions or departments. This is also called a cross-functional team or task force.

Special Purpose Teams

A special purpose team is one that is created from outside the normal organisational structure to undertake a special project. This type of team will normally disband after the project is complete.


This type of team deals with activities that occur on a regular basis and would generally be a permanent team. An example would be a health and safety committee.

Self Directed Teams

Self directed teams are part of a modern approach to organising work that tries to involve employees in the decision making process. It is felt that the increased involvement of front line staff in the decision making process will lead to improved performance.

Self directed teams usually involve 5 to 20 multi skilled workers who have responsibility for a range of task such as scheduling of work, planning, decision-making and the control of budgets.

To enable self directed teams to be effective they should:

  • Be given autonomy, authority and responsibility.
  • Have sufficient knowledge, training and experience.
  • Should be free from interference from outside the group.
  • Be given reasonably complex and challenging activities.

Two forms of self directed teams are:

  • Problem Solving Teams
  • Network/Virtual Team

Problem Solving Teams

A problem solving team usually consists of 5 to 12 employees from the same functional area who meet to find ways of improving quality, efficiency and effectiveness of their work.

Network/Virtual Teams

The network or virtual team is a team that uses computer technology such electronic conferencing facilities, email and collaboration systems to enable them to work together on projects. The members of a network/virtual team are normally geographically dispersed.


The characteristics of an effective team are not easy to identify. Mullins (2007, p311) suggests that the underlying feature of effective teams is a spirit of co-operation in which members work well together as a united team, with harmonious and supportive relationships. This is shown when teams exhibit the following:

  • A belief in shared aims and objectives
  • A sense of belonging to the group
  • Acceptance of group values and norms
  • A feeling of mutual trust and dependency
  • Full participation by all members and decision making by consensus
  • A free flow of information and communication
  • Open expression of feelings and disagreements
  • Conflict resolution by the members themselves
  • Low levels of staff turnover, absenteeism, accidents, errors and complaints

Enhancing Work Team Effectiveness

Managing Teams is a challenging process. According to Williams (2007) companies can increase the likelihood that teams will succeed by carefully managing the setting of team goals and priorities, how team members are selected, trained and compensated.


Teams need to have four main characteristics in order to be properly motivated to achieve challenging goals:

  • A high degree of autonomy or control to make decisions and to carry out their own plans.
  • Empowerment to control resources such as budgets, workspaces, computers or whatever is needed to do their jobs.
  • Structural accommodation: the ability to change organisational structures, policies and practices.
  • Bureaucratic immunity: the ability to make changes without first getting approval from managers or other parts of an organisation.


A focus on teamwork, team level and team diversity can help companies choose the right team.


  • Team members must show a preference for teamwork, which can be assessed by each member’s degree of individualism versus collectivism.

Individualists generally prefer independent tasks in which they work alone and would not necessarily make great team members.

Collectivists prefer interdependent tasks in which they work with others. The latter would make better team members because they put the interests of the group ahead of themselves.

  • Team level: the average level of ability, experience, personality or any other factor in a team. A high level of team experience means that a team has experienced team members.
  • Team diversity: the variances or differences in ability, experience, personality or any other factor in a team. Teams with strong diversity in job experience would have a mix of team members, ranging from seasoned veterans, to people with three or four years of experience, to rookies with little or no experience.


Teams need training to be successful. Many companies underestimate the amount of training that team members need. There are four types of team training:

  • Training in interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills: these include skills such as listening, communicating, questioning and providing feedback, that enable people to have effective working relationships with others.
  • Training in decision-making and problem-solving; this is sometimes taught in conjunction with conflict-resolution skills.
  • Technical training needed to do their jobs.
  • Training for team leaders.


Compensating teams can be very difficult. However, companies can compensate employees for team participation in three different ways:

  • Skill-based pay: a compensation system that pays employees for learning additional skills or knowledge.
  • Gainsharing: a compensation system in which companies share the financial value of performance gains, such as productivity, cost savings, or quality, with their workers.
  • Non-financial rewards such as vacations, plaques or inexpensive gifts.


Two important characteristics of a team that will affect the overall performance of the organisation are the size of the team and the roles that members perform within the team.

Team Size

The ideal size of a manageable work team is believed to be 7, although teams of 5 to 12 can be used effectively depending on the issue involved.

Small Teams: These teams, which have 2 to 4 members, will normally work better together. They tend to be more informal, exchange more opinions, get into more discussions and generally make fewer demands on team leaders.

Large Teams: These teams, which have 12 or more members, tend to suffer from many problems. They tend to be less friendly and have more disagreements. Conflict levels are higher and subgroups often form. Demands on the team leader are greater because of centralised decision making and less member participation. Turnover and absenteeism levels are higher in large teams especially for operatives and support staff.

Team Roles

A team role refers to the part someone plays in the team. Dr R. M. Belbin suggested that for a team to be effective it needs to have a number of participants who play very different roles within the team structure. Belbin’s research indicated that it was possible to identify and distinguish nine distinct management styles, which he labelled team roles.

Belbin’s Nine Team Roles

  • Plant: Advances proposals and makes criticisms that lead to counter suggestions. Can offer new insights into old ways.
  • Resource Investigator: Introduces new ideas from external origins and engages in negotiation type activities. Makes contact with others.
  • Coordinator/Chairperson: Clarifies goals, objectives and selects problems on which decisions have to be made. Helps to establish roles, responsibilities and work boundaries. Sums up the achievements and feelings of the group.
  • Shaper: Pushes the group towards agreement. Shapes roles and responsibilities, tasks and objectives.
  • Monitor /Evaluator: Analyses problems and situations. Can interpret complex information and clarify obscurities, assesses the contribution of others.
  • Team-worker: Gives personal support to others and builds on another member’s ideas. A team-worker will normally take steps to avert or overcome disruption.
  • Company Worker/Implementer: Transforms talk and ideas into practical steps.
  • Completer: Emphasises the need for task completion, identifies errors and omissions, and galvanises others into action.
  • Specialist: Brings knowledge and expertise to the team.

Effective teams have members who recognise the roles they play best and who attempt to enhance the strengths of that role.



Managers and team leaders need to understand the stages a team goes through and the dynamics that need to be managed at each stage in the process. B. W. Tuckman proposes a 5stage model to describe the stages a team goes through. These stages are illustrated in Figure 5.1.


The team is formally introduced and given its tasks or goals. At this stage members will be uncertain about their own role, the role of others and what it is that they have to achieve. This stage is likely to involve some members “jockeying for position” within the team. The team leader should focus on facilitating social interaction within the team and making everyone aware of the team objectives, and individual roles and requirements.


This is the stage of team development in which individual personalities and roles emerge. The potential for conflict and misunderstanding of individual roles becomes an issue here.

At this stage the team may break into factions, which if not addressed, will have a serious impact on the overall cohesiveness of the group.

The challenge of the team leader or manager is to ensure healthy participation by all members, and that disagreements are minimised and conflicts are dealt with.


This stage is characterised by team harmony and unity starting to emerge. The conflicts developed during the storming stage are now resolved and the members of the group start to develop their own norms of acceptable behaviour. The team leader should focus on the team rather than the individual performance and assist in clarifying team roles and values.


At this stage, the team is highly motivated and focused on their individual roles. The team moves towards problem solving and the accomplishment of the task at hand. During this stage, the role of the team leader is one of facilitator of high performance.


At this stage in team development, the team members prepare for the team’s disbandment. This may be because they team has achieved their goal or it could be because of changes in the organisation. Members may be anxious and uncertain about their future. The role of the team leader will be to ensure task completion and to reward members where appropriate.


Team Cohesiveness

Team cohesiveness can be defined as the extent to which team members are attracted to the team and are motivated to remain in it to accomplish required tasks.

Benefits of Team Cohesiveness The benefits of team cohesiveness are:

  • Improved Performance: Improved performance levels generally result from team cohesiveness, but is often dependent upon the relationship between management and employees. Where industrial relations are strained, team cohesiveness can have a negative effect on productivity. Team cohesiveness can often lead to a standardisation of performance rather than its optimisation.
  • Improved Morale: A high level of team morale is evidence of a cohesive team. This is due to greater levels of communications, information sharing between team members, and high levels of loyalty, participation and involvement within the team.

Factors Affecting Team Cohesiveness

A number of factors can influence team cohesiveness. The factors include the following:

  • Interactions within the team: The level of workplace and social interactions between members of the team has a direct effect on cohesiveness.
  • Shared Goals: If the team members agree on the purpose and goals of the team it is likely to be more cohesive.
  • Personal values: The level of team cohesiveness is affected by shared values, attitudes and motivations within a team.
  • Competition: The level of cohesiveness with a team is affected by competition with other internal teams.
  • Feedback: Positive feedback from the organisation for achievements will increase the cohesiveness of the team.

Team Norms

Team norms are defined as informal standards of conduct shared by team members, which control and guide their behaviour. Team members generally conform to team norms, as they want to be accepted within the team. Team norms can help reduce conflict and achieve a consistent way of doing things.

Team norms can have both positive and negative effects. Depending on the relationship between employees and management, team norms can evolve to embrace an organisational change or create a resistance to the specific change.

Development of Team Norm

There are a number of factors that can influence the development of team norms, which include the following:

  • Initial Behaviour: The initial behaviour of a team can develop into team norms and a precedent for future expectations. Therefore the forming stage of team development needs to be carefully managed (start as you mean to continue).
  • Inherited Behaviour: Members will often bring with them experiences and behaviour from other teams or work culture.
  • Explicit Directions: Explicit statements or directions from management or team leaders are an effective way of developing positive team norms or re-directing established team norms.
  • Critical events: Team norms can develop from a critical event which the team experiences.


Team conflict is defined as the antagonistic interaction in which one party attempts to block the intentions or goals of another. Team conflict can have a detrimental effect on team performance and morale and therefore needs to be carefully managed.

Causes of Conflict Within and Among Teams

  • Personality Differences: Differences in personalities among team members can result in conflict. The job of team leader will be to diffuse any situations that may occur and to minimise interactions between the individuals at critical decision-making points.
  • Power and Status Differences: When a team comes together from various departments and from different levels in the organisations, some individuals may feel they have to be perceived to exert power over other members of the team. This can result in conflict within the team.
  • Goal Differences: Goal differences can be a source of conflict among teams that comprise individuals from different departments (e.g. a cross functional project team). This can occur if the goals of the team are at odds with the goals of the various functions.
  • Communications Breakdown: When there is a communications breakdown, the goals or objectives of the group can get misunderstood due to poor communication and conflict can arise.
  • Unclear Boundaries or Responsibilities: When job boundaries are unclear, tensions can arise between group members. This can become a problem during times of change within the organisation.
  • Scarce Resources: As financial and human resources are always scarce in organisations, conflicts can arise in cross-functional teams who have an inherent loyalty to their own groups.

Managing Conflicts

A variety of approaches are available to managers and team leaders for handling conflict situations. The approach taken will depend on the situation at hand.  In general, managers will choose an assertive approach or a co-operative approach. The following five styles, which have varying levels of assertion/co-operation, are available for managers to follow when dealing with conflict:

  • Competing: This style is most effective during crises or when decisive action is required.

It requires a very high level of assertiveness. This is an appropriate style when:

  • Time is short and a rapid decision must be made.
  • The other party may take advantage of you, if you adopt a non-competitive style.
  • Your survival is at stake.
  • You have to implement an unpopular decision regarding an important issue.
  • Avoiding: This is a neutral style which is most appropriate when the conflict is not priority, where there is not adequate information available or when there is no hope of an immediate resolution of the problem. This is an appropriate style when:
    • There is no need to reach an immediate solution.
    • It is useful to buy time in order to let feelings simmer down.
    • Time is needed to gain more information about the issue.
    • There is little chance of winning on the issue.
    • The issue is not important or there are more important issues.
    • The possibility of disruption is high but the likely benefits of a solution are low.
  • Compromising: This involves a degree of both assertiveness and co-cooperativeness. It requires each party to be prepared to give up something of value to reach an agreement.

This is appropriate when:

  • Both sides have valid arguments, equal power and incompatible goals.
  • A problem has to be split down into manageable parts.
  • A temporary agreement is needed over an issue.
  • Neither competition nor collaboration are practical approaches.
  • Time is short and a solution must be found quickly.
  • Accommodating: This is a highly co-operative style where group harmony is vital and where one side realises their arguments are weak or invalid. This style is appropriate when:
    • You think the outcome is more important for the other party than for you.
    • You need to cut your losses.
    • You find you are wrong over the issue.
    • You feel it would be useful to build up some credit for the future.
    • It is important to maintain harmony and avoid the potentially disruptive effects of conflict.
    • Collaborating: This is when both parties are willing to work together and they are genuinely concerned about seeking a conclusion where the concerns of both sides are satisfied. This is often referred to as a win-win situation. This style is appropriate when;
  • Reaching commitment and consensus is paramount.
  • Both parties feel it is worthwhile to commit resources to developing a collaborative solution.
  • The goal for both parties is to learn from each other.



Normally team members receive training on interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills, such as listening, communicating, questioning and providing feedback, enable people to have effective working relationships with others. Also, because managers ultimately get things done through others, competencies in leadership, communication and other interpersonal skills are prerequisites to managerial effectiveness.

The following provides a brief summary of some of the main interpersonal skills:


Listening requires paying attention to what is being said.

Effective listening is active rather than passive. You need to get inside the speaker’s mind so that you can understand the meaning of the communication from his or her point of view.

Active listening requires:

  • Listening attentively (intensely) to the speaker.
  • Developing empathy for what the speaker is saying.
  • Accepting by listening without judging content.

Taking responsibility for completeness in getting the full meaning from the speaker’s communication.


Skills in feedback and evaluation are essential to improving learning, team communication and the quality of products, processes and relationships. Receiving feedback can help team members to get a more rounded view of their performance and helps the reviewer to recognise their strengths and development needs. For those giving feedback there are a number of points to consider:

Positive feedback:

  • Is more readily and accurately perceived than negative feedback.
  • Is almost always accepted, whereas negative feedback often meets resistance. Negative feedback:
  • Is most likely to be accepted when it comes from a credible source or if it is objective.
  • Carries weight only when it comes from a person with high status and credibility.

The following are some suggestions for making feedback more effective:

  • Focus on specific behaviour
  • Keep feedback impersonal
  • Keep feedback goal oriented
  • Make feedback well-timed
  • Ensure understanding
  • Direct negative feedback towards behaviour that the receiver can control

Empowerment Skills – Delegation

Delegation is defined as: “The assignment of authority to another person to carry out specific activities while retaining the ultimate responsibility for the activities”.

Proper delegation requires:

  • Clarifying the exact job to be done
  • Setting the range of the employee’s discretion
  • Defining the expected level of performance
  • Setting the time frame for the task to be completed
  • Allowing employees to participate
  • Establishing feedback controls


Effective delegation pushes authority down vertically through the ranks of an organisation. A number of contingency factors that can influence delegation include:

  • The size of the organisation
  • The importance of the duty or decision
  • Organisational culture
  • Task complexity
  • Qualities of the employees


Managing Conflict

The topic “Managing Conflicts” is discussed in detail in Section 7.7.2 of this chapter. Negotiation

This is a process in which two or more parties who have different preferences must make a joint decision and come to an agreement. To achieve this goal, both parties typically use a bargaining strategy. The following are two types of bargaining strategies:

  • Distributive Bargaining: Negotiation under zero-sum conditions, in which the gains by one party involve losses by the other party. An example of distributive bargaining is in traditional labour-management negotiations over wages and benefits. Each party has a resistance point that marks the lowest outcome that’s acceptable. The area between their resistance points is the settlement range and as long as there is some overlap in their aspiration ranges, there exists a settlement area in which each party’s aspiration can be met.
  • Integrative Bargaining: Negotiation in which there is at least one settlement that involves no loss to either party. In general, integrative bargaining is preferable to distributive bargaining because it builds long-term relationships and facilitates working together in the future.


  • Research the individual with whom you’ll be negotiating.
  • Begin with a positive overture.
  • Address problems, not personalities.
  • Pay little attention to initial offers.
  • Emphasise win-win solutions.
  • Create an open and trusting climate.
  • If needed, be open to accepting third-party assistance.

Effective Presentations

The ability to deliver effective presentations is an important skill. The following are some guidelines when making presentations:

  • Prepare for the presentation.
  • Make your opening comments.
  • Make your points.
  • End the presentation.
  • Answer questions
  • Be natural in your presentation, but address what’s important to the listener.
  • If your audience is interested in what you have to say they will listen.

Source: Fundamentals of Management by S. Robbins & D DeCenzo (2005). Publisher: Prentice Hall 

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