How do you manage and overcome Groupism as a leader?

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“Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ’em to play together is the hard part.” – Casey Stengel

I once joined a project where I had a large and diverse team where groupism was evident. 

What is groupism?

Groupism is a favoritism due to similar culture, belief, opinion, race, ethnicity, religion, similar interest – where a group of people can comfortably and easily get along. This creates isolation and conflict among other employees; people in such groups and isolated people create an unhealthy environment in the workplace.

How do you identify groupism?

“If you can laugh together, you can work together.” – Robert Orben

The arrangement or team, work assignments, and seating arrangements were also established and encouraged by previous management, which made the culture very unhealthy.

A team of people sit together, taking a lunch break together, hanging out outside of work in the same group. Speaking the same language and helping or approaching each other to solve any issue. It is very similar to the groups we see at schools.

The same group would not help other people with the same motivation and sometimes even report issues against other groups.

That creates another similar group, and they protect their boundaries. 

That also creates isolation and difficulty among some outliers who do not belong to any of those groups. 

Why is groupism not healthy?

  • Demotivation overall among the team
  • Lower employee morale
  • Team culture becomes difficult and can potentially lead to a toxic environment
  • Unhealthy competition among groups
  • False reporting to manager and HR and potential lawsuits
  • Hampers productivity and quality of work to be done
  • Lose of talent

What are the steps to improve the team culture?

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Encourage cross-functional team assignments, where an employee from one group is required to work with the employee of another group and get to know each other. Be a positive agent to help them to get to know each other and appreciate each other’s good qualities.

Enforce one official one language to be spoken while working together as a team.

Keep official communication via centralized system and official emails to have open communication and make sure required team members are in the loop.

Involve HR and ethics if necessary to keep them in the loop and seek advice as required.

Re-organize seating arrangements, to promote better collaboration among the team.

Enforce cross-training each other, to stop holding important knowledge within one group only. Which saves the organization from danger or monopoly and loss of talent.

Have clear communication, handle conflicts, and difficult communications strategically and tactically.

Organize social gatherings during lunch hours like a potluck for office lunch so the team can be together in the same room and communicate with each other as well as get to know the food and culture of each other too. Organize outdoor activities and celebrate cultural activities, birthdays, and festival celebrations among diverse cultures.

To handle this requires influencing without authority and being a rich and invisible leader. 

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