Working with… a team that hates you

Have you been there? Have you been with a team that is very open in their dislike of you? Or has such poor team motivation that nothing that you seem to do motivates them to perform.

What does poor team motivation look like?

  • It could be an unwillingness to work with you or talk to you

The team could not want to work with you or answer your emails. They may not even show up to meetings. If they do show up, they could either be silent throughout or in the other extreme; extremely disruptive.

  • Personality clashes causing poor team atmosphere

It’s natural that there are different personalities in a team. Some people are naturally introverted and others are extroverted. If you’ve got some very strong personalities that don’t want to work with someone who is the complete opposite of their personality style, you may see a really disruptive and negative team atmosphere.

  • Open disrespect

Perhaps the team are so brazen with their lack of respect for you as a Project Manager that they’ll be openly rude, disruptive or negative towards you. It can be hard to not take this feeling personally when you are only trying to do your job.

  • Will only work if it’s high profile

I’ve seen a few teams that dragged their heels or were openly hostile if they knew that the project they were working on was low profile. They would work begrudgingly but they’d be much happier working on a high profile project where there would be appropriate visibility from management/stakeholders.

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What can you do about it?

If you’re noticing that this is part of your project, I think that one of the hardest things to do is not get demotivated and negative yourself.

Work on investigating why the team are behaving like they are and what the root cause is.

Is it poor management? Are they fearful of losing their job and thus negative about everything and the company? Were they treated badly recently by a colleague/manager? If you can work out why a person is aggrieved it’ll help you be able to see if there’s anything that you can do to resolve it or at least make it better.

Team Building

This can be really difficult at first but if you can work on building a stronger team and go through the ‘storming’ and ‘norming’ phases of team development then you can work on getting better as a single team unit.

Get the required mandate

I would strongly recommend that if you’re seeing a poor team motivation or rationale that you look at getting the necessary mandate from your management or key stakeholders to be able to action some of your changes and furthermore, escalate if this doesn’t resolve it. You need to make sure that you give enough leeway to ensure that you’ve tried to improve team morale and motivation but if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to make some more radical changes.

Don’t gossip or be cynical

This one will be difficult. Especially as you know that you’re struggling and the team could be annoying you a lot! Be the bigger person and do not gossip about your team or too cynical in your professional life. Wait until you get home and de-stress then. Shout in the car as you drive home, rant to the trees on a walk but don’t let your team see you as being part of the problem when you’re the solution.

Communication

One thing that I’ve found really helps when there is a lot of negativity is communication. I make sure that I’m openly transparent and communicating even more than normal. I make sure that they understand that I’ve listened to their concerns and what we’re going to do. I also make sure that I’m not bombarding them either. People will not remember the thousands of emails that you’ve written but they will know about the quality documents and positive changes that you’ve made.

Conclusion

When it comes to a negative team and what you’re able to achieve you need to give it time. You need to devote the time to analysing what is going wrong and make sure that you listen to the complaints and respond accordingly. I would strongly recommend that if you find that you’re struggling with specific personalities that you look at your behaviour and reaction to see if you’re helping the situation or causing further grievance.

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