Signs of Disunity in an Organization

Written by Chukwuma Asala for Gaebler Ventures

An organization that is unified in their purpose is unstoppable in the marketplace. Unity is easy to create and maintain in a small organization. As a business or company grows however it become increasingly difficult and great care must be taken to keep the organization motivated and loyal to the mission statement of the company. This article will point out five key things to look for which are clear signs an organization's unity is at risk.

Unity is easy to create and maintain in a small organization.

Signs of Disunity in an Organization

As a business or company grows, however, it become increasingly difficult to maintain organizational unity and great care must be taken to keep the organization motivated and loyal to the mission statement of the company.

Why Unity Matters In Small Business

Everyone knows what it's like to be a part of a great team.

And more often than not, it is the unity and camaraderie that you experienced and witnessed that is remembered more than anything else. The reality is, however, most people identify the whole concept of team with sports. Most people have been part of a sports team growing up or maybe even in college if they played it as a varsity sport.

The uniqueness of being part of a sports team, however, is that the roster changes every year and at most you are together with a few of the same people for four years. In business this is not the case as you will find yourself working with the same people for years at a time and the roster does not change as much.

This is not to say that unity is harder to preserve in business, but it is different from keeping a sports team together. There are a lot of different dynamics involved and so it requires more attention and care from the leaders in the organization.

Disunity in a business team or organization is not uncommon because businesses are made up of human beings with varied interests and frailties.

When you put them together and leave them to their own devices, even the most well-intentioned people will usually deviate toward detrimental and unproductive behavior. And because most leaders and managers are not schooled in the art of building and maintaining teams, small problems are left untreated and spiral further and further into ugliness and eventually corporate politics.

Signs that Unity Is Lacking Within an Organization

Here are some of the key things to watch for in an organization and they may happen most likely in this order as they build on top of one another. These are signs that a company could be headed for disaster if care is not taken and these issues are addressed.

Lack of trust

This is probably the first thing that will happen before anything else. The people in the organization will begin to lose trust for one another on a variety of levels.

Team members are uncomfortable being vulnerable with one another, unwilling to admit their weaknesses, mistakes or needs for help. It goes without saying that if people cannot be vulnerable with one another they will not be able to trust one another. It is important for people to feel comfortable expressing their ideas without fear of being reprimanded or alienation.

They must also feel that no matter the circumstances that their ego or self-worth will not be challenged. To prevent this lack of trust from developing leaders must make a conscious effort to build relationships with as many key people in the organization as they can so they are always aware of ruffled feathers and tension build-ups in the company that they can aid in decompressing.

There is no substitute for trust. It begins with the willingness of team members to open themselves up to one another and admit their weaknesses and mistakes. When all else fails, win back trust of your employees to start over. As the leader be the first one vulnerable at all times and risk losing face in front of the team. This will create an environment that does not punish vulnerability.

Fear of confrontation or conflict

This is the natural next level of disunity. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate about ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

Gossip ensues simply because people do not feel they have a common space in which to share ideas or dialogue. It is important to note that dialogue does not have to necessarily be positive but it must be open to everyone. If dialogue isn't positive then that is a clear indicator that something is wrong. Covering up negative dialogue between people, however, is only a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

As long as fear is part of any equation involving people there will be absolutely no progress. All great relationships require productive conflict to grow. Healthy conflict is limited to concepts and ideas and avoids personality-focused, mean spirited attacks. The conflict ought to have passion, emotion and frustration so that everyone is heard, knowing that the purpose is to produce the best solutions in the shortest period of time.

Teams that engage each other in healthy conflict waste far less time than teams which avoid it. So avoiding conflict is not the answer. That is similar to putting a band aid on a wound that requires stitches. Abstain from premature resolutions to conflicts to protect people from embarrassment and encourage everyone to face conflict head-on.

Lack of commitment

The two greatest causes of lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty. Seeking consensus is dangerous and unnecessary if everyone is heard, at which point team members will rally around the decision. If there is an impasse, the leader of the team is allowed to make the call.

Great teams can commit and unite around decisions even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct. They understand a decision is better than no decision. Compare this to dysfunctional teams that hedge bets and delay decisions creating paralysis and lack of confidence. It is conflict that underlies the willingness to commit without perfect information.

When all the cards are on the table the team can confidently commit. It is important to understand that one of the greatest consequences for an executive team that does not commit to clear decisions is irresolvable discord deeper in the organization, and this leads to true indecision, unhealthy morale and poor performance.

More than anyone else, the leader must be comfortable with the prospect of making a decision that ultimately turns out to be wrong. The leader must continue to press for meeting deadlines, but not place too high a premium on certainty or consensus.

Unwillingness to hold one another accountable

Accountability refers to the willingness of team members to call their peers on performance or behaviors that might hurt the team. Members of great teams overcome the fear of confrontation and "enter the danger" with one another. But this is difficult because no one wants to jeopardize a valuable personal relationship. Yet, without such conflict, relationships deteriorate and results deteriorate with them.

It turns out that peer pressure motivates respected teammates to not let each other down and motivates people to the highest standards. Team members fail to confront one another around behaviors and deliverables that do not conform to agreed decisions. As the leader allow and encourage the team and not individuals to serve as the primary accountability mechanism. Otherwise team members won't take active responsibility.

The leader must in the end serve as the arbiter of discipline when the team fails and the first person to give praise and edification when the team succeeds.

Inattention to results

The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than collective goals and results.

In poorly performing teams, members derive status from being part of the team, or they focus on enhancing their own positions or career prospects at the expense of their team. A functional team must make the group results the most important goals, and they must be results oriented, living and breathing results. Team members put their individual needs for career development and recognition before the collective goals of the team.

The leader must set the tone for a focus on results. Team members must sense that the leader values these results more than anything. Otherwise they will take this as permission not to themselves. Team leaders must be selfless and objective and reserve rewards and recognition for those who make real contributions to the achievement of group goals.

Chukwuma Asala is an international student from Nigeria who is studying to earn an MBA from the State University of New York in Albany. He has analyzed more than 20 industry case studies throughout his education thus far, and hopes to bring some of his business knowledge to Gaebler.com.

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What's your take how to build unity within an organization and why it's important to do so?

  • Igbinomwanhia Uyi posted on 11/8/2009
    Igbinomwanhia Uyi
    I appreciate your article. Without unity, a church, a business a marriage, a class cannot stand. Thanks

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