Why Drama on Your Team May be OK

Monish SubherwalResolving ConflictLeave a Comment

I just joined a new company a few weeks ago.  One of the interesting things about being new to a company is how eager you are to fit in and be accepted and show you are valuable.  This is just called “looking good” and for the most part it’s normal and expected by others.  We all put in extra effort when we are new.

In some teams, however, this causes some more serous issues.  The “looking good” turns almost nasty.  We get product, design, development (or other stakeholders) – who think their opinion is better than others.  They are not as flexible.  They have something to prove and hold on to their idea and think it’s the best.

What to do?  Most design leaders and managers inaccurately see this is a “people problem” and try to “fix it”.  However, while this problem is ANNOYING – maybe it’s normal.

Allow me to explain…

The Tuckman Model

Bruce Tuckman came up with a group development model called “Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing”.   And it shows the some drama may just be OK…read on.

Forming

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Whenever you join a new group (as I am doing at my new job), you are in the forming stage.  At this stage, you are concerned with being accepted by others and avoiding conflict.  People tend to keep to themselves as they are figuring out the norms of the group culture.

This is the “LOOKING GOOD” phase I mentioned earlier that I was experiencing being new at work.  Yeah yeah, even I succumb to Tuckman’s model – blast you Tuckman!

Storming

This is the DRAMA phase.  During storming, group members have formed trust, but are now comfortable expressing discontent and challenging each others’ opinions.

Now here’s where annoying people emerge and as a design leader and manager, you get concerned.  You start to assess, is this really a problem where I need to step in?

However, stepping in may be premature and foolish.  Why?  Because this stage is necessary for the growth of the team.  Yes, it may be HIGHLY annoying AND you may want to punch someone.  However, sometimes the rough dialogue may lead to more closeness for the team (think of married couples who are fighting the first year of marriage!).

However, if teams don’t get past this stage, it can be destructive.  Some “mild refereeing” may be needed to create more patience, tolerance, and ensuring professional behavior.  But don’t jump the gun.

Norming

Finally, the calm after the storm.  Ahh.  Norming is when everyone starts behaving, understanding the project and the group dynamics, and agrees to play nice and do their part.

Performing

Lastly, if you are lucky, your team starts performing.  Think of this stage as representative of the giant “S” word:  SYNERGY.  Yes, I said synergy.

Performing teams are able to working together, maintaining dialogue and healthy conflict, and making decisions without much supervision.  They are motivated and autonomous.

So Drama…may be Good?

What this means for design leaders and managers is that “drama” (AKA ‘Storming’ in Tuckman’s model) may be normal and even necessary for high team performance.  However, be smart.  You got to assess when a team member is out of hand or just going through one of the Tuckman stages.

From Wikipedia:

“[Tuckman] maintained that these 4 phases –  Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing – are all necessary and inevitable in order for the team to grow, to face up to challenges, to tackle problems, to find solutions, to plan work, and to deliver results.”

Your thoughts?

Hope this article helps!   Share your thoughts below.  Ever have to deal with an annoying employee or co-worker.  Can you see how the Tuckman model may be at play?

Would love to hear from you!

At Your Service,

Monish

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