Team Breaking

Yesterday I talked to a friend of mine who was disenchanted with work…which is a new development for her. Up until now, she’s been very positive about her work environment. “What happened?” I asked.

Turns out that the manager of her group looked at her team and decided they were “too cliquish.” So he broke them up.

He moved the team lead to another group, re-configured positions and brought in a new team lead. Several of the old team members decided to move with the old team leader—and took their experience, domain knowledge, and context knowledge with them.

The new team leader brought in people he’s worked with before. The new team members are on a learning curve; they have the general knowledge for the job, but don’t know the specific domain or the workings of that part of the business. They haven’t yet established working relationships with the remaining old team members.

The old team members feel that the new team lead giving the people he brought with him preferential treatment.

Important work is falling through the cracks. Both the old team members and the new team members feel it’s more “us and them” than a true team.

In short, it’s a mess.

Sad to say, I see this fairly often. Someone looks at a tightly bonded team and decides they are “too cliquish.”

Teams that are performing well are tightly bonded. They have a sense of who they are and what they can do. And they celebrate that. It’s team identity – and it’s a normal part of being a high-performing team.

I can image a case where a team is “too cliquish”—which I’d define as not looking outward to the needs of the organization and not doing the job the team was chartered to do. But before I broke up the team, I’d work with them on what the real issue is: not getting the right work done.

It seems though, that some managers make the judgment that a team is “too cliquish” without looking at results—as if tightly bonded teams are by definition a bad thing.