Intra-team dynamics – Why do we eat our own during organizational change?

“Why do we eat our own?” This was the question posed by the department lead to all of her direct reports. Her teams recently went through organizational change, and team members had become very quick to turn on each other.  It was hard to watch the teams she developed and treated like family become so hard on each other.

As organizational change takes shape, some predictable patterns tend to emerge.  Whether we call it Bruce Tuckman’s “storming” phase, Wilfred Bion’s “fight or flight” stage or M. Scott Peck’s “chaos” step of community building, groups are likely to go through a period of internal struggle.

This kind of internal strife is a natural part of the group experience and should be expected, measured, managed and tracked to ensure that it is a positive force inside the organizational change and not one that tears the team down.  Left unchecked, unhealthy chaos slows down the time for groups to reach productivity.  It becomes easy for factions to develop that can marginalize individuals within the group leading to poor results, employee turnover and a lack of innovation.

As a people leader, our role is to facilitate the process and support our teams through the stages of change.  This doesn’t mean we prevent the storming process from occurring; it is an important step in team development.  Instead, we need to help foster the positive chaos that our teams must navigate with each other on their journey to becoming a mature organization.