Unhealthy or unproductive relationships with your co-workers can cause great stress, as can working within a dysfunctional team. There are ways to resolve some of the issues that can make teamwork so frustrating.

Consider Team Design and Support

Many of us spend a large part of our time working with the same group of people. When we like these people and enjoy working as part of the team, our work can be very satisfying and we can achieve a great deal. However, if we find our co-workers difficult to deal with and if our teamwork is plagued with conflict, work can become stressful and unpleasant. Problems with working relationships can be a symptom of poor team design or of weak team support and will need to be investigated.

Provide Skills and Resources

A team needs the skills necessary to achieve its goals, as well as access to such resources as information, funding, time, coaching, and support. While we all need to improvise occasionally, it can be intensely frustrating and stressful to be set challenging goals and not have the means to achieve them.

When individual team members support each other success is almost guaranteed.

Check Team Size

Up to a point, the bigger a team is, the more likely it is to achieve its goals, but size has its disadvantages, too. If your team is large, there are questions you should be asking:

  • Are you having to spend too much time co-ordinating your activities with other team members in order to produce a coherent team product?

  • Are you and your co-workers fully occupied on the team task?

  • Are less-committed team members shirking some of their responsibilities and getting a free ride on the back of other people’s efforts?

All of these issues can lead to frustration and stress. If, as a manager, you’re having these problems with your team, then you may need to split the team into smaller sub-teams and move some of your best people into supervisory roles.

Reward Appropriately


Badly aligned reward systems can undermine team spirit

In a well-designed team, the reward systems are correctly aligned. It is unlikely that a team will function well if bonuses are given to people who succeed at the expense of other team members. If good team behaviour is important to an organization’s success, then rewards must reflect this. If your organization is motivating people to behave badly, make sure that you raise this as an issue.


Some jobs need star performers, and they need to be rewarded appropriately. If possible, do this in a way that doesn’t promote jealousy.

Brief the Team

Once the team has been properly designed and brought together, team members need to be briefed clearly so that they know its purpose, are aware of what they can and can’t do, and understand what has to be delivered. This briefing needs to be done carefully if your team is to realize its full potential. Knowing its objectives, the team needs to know what its boundaries are – what it can do and what it cannot do. For example, it needs to know:

  • If it can bring more people on to the team

  • How far it can change standard working methods

  • What power it has to change things outside the team.

A team that does not know its boundaries risks, at one extreme, failing to achieve its potential and, at the other extreme, causing political problems and turf wars. If you don’t know what the objectives and boundaries are, make sure you ask. If you’re a team leader and you haven’t explained these things, make sure you do.

Good teamwork can give you an advantage over apparently stronger opponents and will help you achieve your goals.

Get Coaching


A team needs to know both its objectives and its limits

With good team design and clear briefing, it should be possible to make a good start, but make sure you get coaching, and give it where appropriate. Coaching is one of the most useful and effective management tools and can be used to turn a situation around completely, so that people whose performance was compromised by the levels of stress they were experiencing can become enthusiastic members of the team. Coaching can be motivational, helping people to commit to objectives. It can be educational, helping people to understand how to achieve goals, or helping them to develop essential skills. Coaching can also focus on the team itself, helping individuals to work together effectively.


Good coaching can reduce workplace stress by providing problem-solving, team-building, and improved work management skills.

Think Smart

Teamwork is about communication. If you’re the team leader, make sure you give regular feedback. If you’re a team member and are not getting feedback from your team leader, make sure you ask for it.

Team members need good feedback on their results. Where problems arise, they need to know about these so that they can correct related behaviour. They also need to be told when results are good; this gives them job satisfaction, increases their self-confidence, and improves the team spirit.

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