Team Dynamics and Trust building

Question:

Last year, due to the recession, I had to take up a position that required me to move from our current location. My husband also needed to move because of my job. This was a good position and the boss on the first few interactions seemed reasonable.

As time went by at this new job, my boss started complaining that I am not doing my job well and that many of my co-workers are complaining. I tried to stay away from any kind of troublesome co-workers and kept a low profile. But the tasks assigned to me required my boss’s support. I needed to validate the solutions that the contractors developed, and they did not like the fact that I was questioning their work. Additionally, they started to complain saying I am delaying the project timelines. As time went by, the situation became worse with the consultants complaining. And also, people around me tried to bypass me. Finally my boss said that I was not working out and I left. I wanted to get some insight on how to handle a complex team dynamics, how to build trust with the boss, and how to make sure that people do not go around me. Please advise.

Signed,

Did Not Work Out


Answer:

Dear Did Not Work Out:

Yours is a sad story; moving your family in order to have work and that resulting in an unhappy working relationship with your boss and coworkers. From here, I can’t see that you failed to do what was assigned. The problems you describe appear to be linked to doing your best to be thorough and effective such as questioning the contractors. I’m sure you did your best to address the complaints about not doing your job well of your boss. And from here, it is impossible to know what you did or didn’t do that caused your coworkers to work around rather than with you.

Therefore, I don’t think there is a generic answer to “how to handle a complex team dynamics, how to build trust with the boss, and how to make sure that people do not go around me.” It seems you are blaming yourself when the fault might not be yours. Could it be that your boss failed to give you adequate training for the tasks assigned? Could it be that your boss or someone assigned failed to detail what was expected before the boss “validated” the solutions you presented? Could it be that the boss should have scheduled frequent skull sessions for the whole team to talk about what was going well and what could be done better?

Complex teams function well when they program tasks and the critical paths to accomplishing their mission. In 1957, the Navy designed such a work plan called Programmed Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) and PERT was also used in 1968 in planning for the Olympics. You can read about this on the Internet. My point is not that there is only one way to accomplish a work group’s interaction. Rather it is that tasks need to be assigned and sequencing continuously clarified. Complexity required plans and interaction and that hinges on clear and frequent communication. It also works best when the unwritten rules about who talks to whom, when, and where are spelled out; what I call do and don’t rules of communication. For example, what were the unwritten rules that surrounded the complaints made by your boss, the contractors, and coworkers? How could they have been handled more forthrightly than by bypassing you?

Work groups don’t function as teams and trust is not earned unless their leaders and followers understand that there is a · Forming period that reduces the uncertainty, · A forming stages when what is expected becomes clear, · An attitude that expects conflict and sees it as an opportunity to solve problems.

These stages of work groups recur and recur because complexity entails many variables. Earning trust is an ongoing process of clarifying what is expected and delivering on those expectations. My signature sentence suggests that shaping a team “takes” so much more than working solo: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. You strike me as one who wants to learn from what has been a difficult job situation. Reflect on that, but don’t allow yourself to wallow in blaming your self.

William Gorden