Are Blurred Roles Sowing Discontent Within Your Team?

I was once asked to facilitate a team-building session with a large nonprofit group in Toronto.  The VP, Human Resources who enlisted me explained that there seemed to be an escalation in negative talk and a lack of cooperation among the team in a particular department.  Other internal customers of this department noticed the change in attitude and were starting to feel the resulting problematic behaviours. 

I asked to meet individually with a number of employees who were on the receiving end of this unproductive behaviour.  

Using this feedback and a few other probing questions, I developed a short survey instrument and met with each member of the offending team.  I asked each person the same questions and created a summary of the responses, while respecting confidentiality.

It became apparent that the problem lay with the fact that members of the team felt they were increasingly being asked to carry out work that they felt belonged to others on the team.  This caused resentment which over time grew and resulted in the present situation.

In this day and age, job descriptions have become, at best, a broad indicator of the ever-changing responsibilities of any position.  They are rarely updated and soon become somewhat obsolete.  Roles and job tasks continuously evolve as expectations grow and new technology and tools are introduced.

Sharing my findings with the VP of HR, I suggested that we hold a series of team meetings to clarify roles and emphasize the need to share work  to meet the internal customer demands.  We worked with the team to develop a collaborative approach to getting stuff done.

We  also clarified roles where critical individual accountability was still necessary.  We agreed to meet quarterly to review this.  We  developed a continuous feedback loop that measured internal customer satisfaction and use the results to improve service.

We placed the accountability squarely in front of the team and gave them ownership of the quality of their service.

The positive results were noticeable and appreciated by all internal customers.  The team continued to develop and the work environment was buzzing with positive vibes.  People were deriving a higher level of job satisfaction and enjoyed coming to work again!

Amazing what clarifying roles can accomplish!

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