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Effective Team Communication

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Effective Communication in a Team

The concept of working in teams is nothing new. Recently, this approach has taken over the workplace and classrooms powerfully; however, we must realize that with this approach comes with both the good and the bad. What is teamwork? A team is a formal work group consisting of people who work together intensely to achieve a common group goal. Teams have been around for quite a while to overcome the weakness of the single person. Adam and Eve in the Bible knew that they had to come together to make it, as did Moses and the people of Egypt when they crossed the Red Sea. Even in our society today the trend is becoming very popular. Reality shows such as Survivor, The Surreal Life, and The Apprentice, all practice teamwork and from watching the shows we know that they have great success. (De Janasz, S. C., Dowd, Schneider, 2002). From the examples listed above we also see that in the path to great success, there are many elements involved, specifically communication. Communication can have a positive or negative effect on teams. Communication norms encourage positive teamwork, while communication barriers hinder healthy teamwork, creating confusion within the group.

The use of teams enhances the level of communication in an organization. Teamwork requires collective action that is grounded in words and actions. It is not sufficient for one person to determine how he or she wants to work. Each person must get others on board before proceeding. In effective teams, there is a rich sharing of information and ideas that will improve communication within the team. An effective way to do this is for a team to sit down and gather a set of communication norms or some guidelines on communication and trust. For example, “all ideas are given a fair hearing, everyone will have an opportunity to contribute information and opinions, open and honest opinions are welcome, members are expected to actively listen to each other, and rank does not give you privilege” (Parker, 2003). Once these guidelines have been set, there needs to be a system in place to ensure that they are followed. If the communication in a team is at its best, then the work will be also.

Larson and LaFasto consider an effective communication system to be one of the four necessary features of the team structure. The communication system must focus on accessible information, utilize information from credible sources, provide opportunities for informal communication, and have a way to document decisions in planning for communication. Team Leaders need to be aware of this process and work diligently to develop an effective set of communication norms from the beginning (1989). Another important technique in preparing for communication is to train the team members in advance on effective communication techniques. Team members should be trained about group techniques for meeting, facilitation, and conflict resolution as well as individual skills such as listening, communicating criticism and mediation. Good communication also requires feedback among team members (Wheelan, 2005). The process of giving and receiving feedback is one of the most important ways for learning new behaviors and determining the impact of our behavior on others. Almost all aspects of team communication involve feedback- giving and receiving information about team- related experience. By giving clear and concise feedback, team members and the entire organization will benefit.

“A certain amount of conflict within a team is good. Too little, or too much conflict is a type of communication breakdown. Too little conflict most likely means that nobody cares or they all think alike. Both of these factors mean the team is not being effective” (Lemmex, 2004). Miscommunication, also known as “communication breakdown” can engender conflict, prevent important information from reaching decision makers, and reduce the morale of team members. By understanding the causes of communication breakdown, a team can create a better working environment for themselves. Inadequate training, apathy, misunderstandings, differing backgrounds, or lack of respect are all issues that cause communication breakdown. The results are this are often withholding information, loss of trust,



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