More and more research these days is pointing to the idea that teams are not the best way to manage people. In fact, teams can actually be harmful to corporate culture and a company’s bottom-line. Why? Here are the four main reasons why having teams can be damaging to your business:
Businesses that do not break employees into teams often embrace more cross training and have more well-rounded employees. This helps to maintain continuity as a company is growing when key employees take vacation time or are out sick. It also improves job satisfaction and encourages retention because employees feel like their employer is investing in them as individuals and equipping them to make a difference.
Teams tend to create highly specialized employees – silo-ing people in their roles and discouraging beneficial interaction with other teams. This segregation can make it difficult to get things done because problem-solving means finding the right team to tackle the issue and obtaining buy-in from that team to help. In a team environment, passing the buck is a common problem.
Teams Add Meaningless Hierarchy
Teams need Team Leads and a bunch of Team Leads often have a Head Team Lead and then the next thing you know, there are all of these layers of hierarchy that serve no purpose other than padding people’s resumes, creating needless meetings, and muddling decision-making. Adding more levels means more politicking to get promotions and distracts from getting meaningful work done.
Members of Teams Do Less Work
In studies about individual physical output versus team output, people contribute more when they are doing something for themselves rather than doing something on a team. For instance, in a strength study people were asked to pull weights in increasing increments until they were no longer able to pull any more weight. Then the amounts were recorded and averaged. When people were asked to do the same study as a team, the weight that the team could pull was always less than the number of people on the team multiplied by the average weight that one person could pull.
Statistically, people do less work when they are on a team because individual contribution is anonymous. This means that slacking off can go unnoticed and even the best intentioned team members are more likely to hold back to reserve time and energy for themselves rather than investing it into the team.
Teams Create Animosity
Sometimes teams are created for the sole purpose of increasing competition to boost output. The “us versus them” mentality that results from these kinds of teams in particular can act as poison to a corporate culture. In a scenario where people are evaluated individually rather than as a team, it makes it harder for employees to keep score so there tends to be less animosity.
However, in a team-happy environment, there are constant comparisons between groups to be made, which can result in dissatisfaction within teams that feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick and a superiority complex within teams that know that they are on the top of the pecking order. This can create high employee turnover and make innovating as a company very difficult.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!