I USED to work in an organization where the employees were cliquish, and you cannot be a part of a group unless you did something for them. And they took advantage of new employees like me who knew nothing about the factions. I only discovered it when I asked someone in the team to help me out, but he dismissively told me to ask help from my group. Later on, the factions became more aggressive, and it became worse for me because our manager joined the other group. They even had their own chat group where they talked about the other members of the rival group. I quit soon after.
Factions are subgroups within a team or an organization that share time and resources for whatever reason. Some are harmless and sometimes beneficial because information is shared faster, and people can depend on each other to get the work done faster. However, there are also factions that come together because of conflict within the team, caused by the leaders themselves, or even created to go against the entire organization. These are the factions that need to be addressed unless you want it to affect other team members and even the rest of the organization.
Factions can also form when there is a perception that one person is favored over other members of the team. They also develop when there are workload imbalances or certain people get the easier projects than others. It can also occur because of a lack of resources, inadequate communication, even because of poor leadership. Telltale signs of these include ignored emails or messages, blaming other members of the team, avoiding certain members of the team, or even refusing to work with other team members.
Factions hinder teamwork because team members who do not belong to any of the factions in your team will find themselves out of place or try so hard to become part of one side of the team when they need something. If there are factions in your team, some will try so hard to appease both factions just to get the work done, or they will try to look for ways to go around the other group. This unnecessarily takes more time and effort to get the work done. Your team needs to collaborate with everyone in the team if they are to significantly contribute to the team’s success. If there are factions, workflows will keep being disrupted.
Factions also lead to decreased engagement, unnecessary friction, and increased miscommunication among team members. It goes without saying that factions in a team alienate those belonging to a rival faction, and even those caught in the middle. If you do not do anything, this can escalate into a full conflict which will result in more problems. As a group, everyone should be working toward the achievement of the team’s goals. When there are factions, it becomes more difficult to rally a team toward the finish line.
The first thing you need to do as a leader is to set clear guidelines on what behaviors are acceptable within the team. If you allow open communication and dialogue, your team needs to know that what they say to you will not be taken against them. There are leaders who say they want open communication but fail to provide specific guidance and direction on what the team should do. When factions develop because of a leader’s lack of direction and guidance, then you have failed as a leader. As their leader, you are the one who is supposed to unify your team into a cohesive whole.
Always be on the lookout for disgruntled employees because prevention is better than a cure. If you think a person is disrupting the work environment, step in and investigate why the team member is upset. If it is something you can do, commit to fixing it. If it involves other people, it would be best to talk to everyone involved so that issues are resolved and difficulties are addressed. Remember that as their leader, you need to be on top of what is happening in your team.
If there is a need to resolve conflict between factions right away, get them in a room so they can discuss and let them find a way to resolve their own conflict. You should facilitate the discussion toward finding a resolution to their conflict. Make them come to terms with their issues and help them see how their actions are affecting other team members. Then ask both factions to identify what they can both do to resolve their issues. If their issue is with your leadership, be brave enough to admit your shortcomings and tell them what you intend to do moving forward.
When looking for a solution to the conflict, find common ground so that both sides can agree on a compromise and then work your way toward other actions plans both factions are willing to do. You have an important duty of helping them see the other’s point of view so that both groups can find a way to work together. If it becomes too difficult to work together and there are irreconcilable differences, make plans to move them to other departments of the organization as a last resort. As difficult as it may seem, you need to keep an eye on your team’s working environment because that will affect your team’s deliverables.
If both parties are amenable to working it out, ask them to work on a simple task so they can start working again together. Make sure the task is achievable but it should also force both parties to work together. Opposing factions need to find their way back into each other’s good graces and hopefully find ways to work professionally together. These may be little steps, but it can help in restoring confidence in each other.
Factions in your team indicate that they are not satisfied with the way things are going in the team. Whatever the reason, you need to identify what is driving it and address the issues they have with each other, or with you. If not, you will find your team looking for a leader who can and will do the work you are unwilling to do. n
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