Team Lead Ratting To Supervisor

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about one leader reporting on another: What does one do with this type of information?

I have checked the archives, and didn’t see this question asked yet. I’d really appreciate your advice. I supervise two senior employees, who lead two teams. The senior employees need to work together, and both report to me directly. Team Lead 2 has brought to my attention that Team Lead 1 has instructed Team 1 members not to discuss with Team 2 anything that Team Lead 1 tells Team 1, even though these teams must work together. It appears that Team Lead 2 thinks that Team Lead 1 is not being up front, not being cooperative, not being a team player, and could be saying false things about Team Lead 2. I asked why Team Lead 2 told me these things, and what action he wanted me to take. He said just “thought I should know.” What does one do with this type of information? Thank you very much.

Signed, Supervisor Of Two Leads

Dear Supervisor Of Two Leads:

Competition inevitably emerges when work groups meet separately. Some of the early research regarding cooperation and competition conducted in a camp for young boys found that even good friends become enemies when they were assigned to different teams. Efforts to party together did not overcome that antagonism provoked by being assigned to separate teams. It took an overarching goal and benefit that could not be achieved separately to ameliorate the dislike that team competition had generated, such as not being able to move a stuck truck bring water to the camp without all pushing and pulling and to only being able to rent a film when money was pooled from all teams.

In your case, the two team leaders and their members, it seems have fallen into a competitive attitude. It has become “we” and “they”, not we together. The fact that your two teams meet and work separately means that they have taken on that an “us” and “them.” Communication tends to be in-group and not with the out-group. Since one lead has informed you of this, you must determine whether it will break a confidence to frankly speak to the other lead about this and/or to have a three-way confrontation to resolve and smooth over the rumored conflict.That might not be the way you want to handle this information.

The larger challenge for you as supervisor of these senior leads is to find an overarching benefit and consequence to cooperation. What can the two teams only achieve by cooperation? That might be putting together different pieces to a puzzle or project. Or it might mean a bonus if they can jointly do a quality improvement proposal/project for your division. Or it might mean engaging the two leads in an on-going report to you about ways their two teams are working together to achieve an assigned goal. If and when you make it clear that you are not happy unless and until you see evidence of genuine inter-team effort, pleasing you that way will then become the overarching goal.

So put on your thinking cap. Ask why you want cooperation. What can only be achieved if the team leads work together? I have worked across an 18-month period developing plant-wide team building committed to quality improvement projects; the overarching goal was to survive and not be shut down. In this economic climate, that is a worthy goal and your leads should be made aware of how their teams working together is needed to make that happen. Might it not be smart to ignite frequent inter-lead and inter-group communication? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Can you be the champion of that? Will you keep me posted?

William Gorden