Feedback and Rewards

Team Effectiveness: Teams vs. Mobs

Harvey Robbins asked:

In the rush to bestow the manifold blessings of teams upon our organizations, lots of groups get called teams that probably should not be. The resulting groups are too big, too lumpy, quite mismatched, and more than a little confused. I call these assemblages mobs. There are ways to differentiate real teams from fake teams or mobs:


Members recognize their interdependence and understand that both personal and team goals are best accomplished with mutual support. Time is not wasted struggling over “turf” or attempting personal gain at the expense of others.

Members feel a sense of ownership for their jobs and unit because they are committed to goals they helped establish.

Members contribute to the organization’s success by applying their unique talent and knowledge to team objectives.

Members work in a climate of trust and are encouraged to openly express ideas, opinions, disagreements, and feelings. Questions are welcomed.

Members practice open and honest communication. They make an effort to understand each other’s points of view.

Members are encouraged to develop skills and apply what they learn on the job. They receive the support of the team.

Members recognize conflict as a normal aspect of human interaction, but they view such situations as an opportunity for new ideas and creativity. They work to confront and resolve conflict quickly and constructively.

Members participate in decisions affecting the team, but understand that their leader must make a final ruling whenever the team cannot decide, or an emergency exits. A positive result, not conformity is the goal.


Members think they are grouped together for administrative purposes only. Individuals work independently, sometimes at cross-purposes with others.

Members tend to focus on themselves because they are not sufficiently involved in planning the unit’s objectives. They approach their jobs simply as hired hands.

Members are told what to do rather than being asked what the best approach would be. Suggestions are not encouraged.

Members distrust the motives of colleagues because they do not understand the role of other members. Expressions of opinion or disagreements are considered divisive and non supportive.

Members are so cautious about what they say that real understanding is not possible. Game playing may occur and communication traps are set to catch the unwary.

Members may receive good training but are limited in applying it to the job by the supervisor or other group members.

Members find themselves in conflict situations without knowing how to resolve them. They do not differentiate confrontation and conflict. Their supervisor or “team leader” may put off intervention until serious damage occurs.

Members may or may not participate in decisions affecting the team. Conformity often appears more important than positive results.

So, before you go about patting yourself collectively on the back, go back and take a real hard look at what kinds of groups of people you have that you call teams. How were they assembled, for what purpose, what does success look like, when should you stop teaming, are your team members complementary to each other or go into bare knuckle battles called team meetings? These are all questions that will help you diagnose whether you have real teams or some sick scene from “the Gangs of New York.”


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