What constitutes effective team working behaviour on the part of individuals? All the usual behaviours such as good communication, being co-operative and collaborative, working towards the common goal etc. are typical examples. However, Felps et al (2006) identified three specific high level behavioural expectations that are necessary for effective team working – these are somewhat outside the usual need to listen, question and join in.

Firstly, team members are expected to contribute adequate effort by working towards team goals with the same intensity and persistence as others do. If they don’t do so, issues related to equity and fairness come to the fore. Other team members start to feel resentful that they are unfairly carrying the workload and that the team member in question is “withholding effort” – i.e. they are loafing!

Secondly, team members need to perform emotional labour by self-monitoring and regulating their expression of feelings to facilitate comfortable and positive team interactions. This type of behaviour is different to the occasional criticism, negative comment or expression of frustration or anxiety. A negative individual is therefore a team member who frequently expresses negative feelings, such as pessimism, anxiety, insecurity, irritation etc. which results in others moving away from them, or moving against them. Thus progress is stymied by the individual’s repetitious and inappropriate expression of emotion.

Thirdly, team members are expected to perform contextually by respecting and adhering to the interpersonal and social/team norms. So for example, if this is a team where people take it in turns to make tea for one another and one team member never offers to do so, then that person is not performing contextually. If a team member persists in swearing or telling off colour jokes when this team has expressly asked them not to do so they are violating the interpersonal norms in the team and they are, as Felps’ words, an interpersonal deviant!

How do you and your colleagues measure up against these three behavioural expectations?

by Dr. Megan Joffe