Team norms are an excellent method of creating comfortable, professional relationships between members of a team – especially those in companies or offices. By setting up guidelines and codes for team members to follow, you make them feel more confident about what to do in cases of conflict, or how to go about talking to another team member on topics that they may find difficult or uncomfortable to bring up. By creating guidelines, you alleviate the stress that comes with having to decide how to approach a subject with someone who may not be that familiar, or even in a higher up position in the team.
What is a team norm? A team norm is essentially a set of guidelines that deal specifically with how to interact between members on a team. They can also be used for leaders to assess how well team members are interacting together, and whether any improvements need to be made. Minimising interpersonal problems makes everyone happier, and brings the focus back onto actual work.
Team norms are important for several major areas:
- Team member communcation. Setting up guidelines for speaking appropriately and respectfully, expressing thoughts and ideas, debating them constructively and helpfully, and working through together is an important part of setting up team norms. They can be literal phrases or constructs, or just guides for everyone to keep in mind.
- Team organisation. Knowing who is in charge, how this is decided, what they can and cannot do in their leadership position and what their responsibilities and duties are is important for the team members to have proper faith in them. This should be clearly outlined and established, not just vaguely inferred, especially for new team members.
- Team conflict resolution and decision making. One of the trickiest situations to navigate in a team setting is when there’s a disagreement between two parties. It can be a personal dispute with someone, being made to feel uncomfortable or unwanted, disagreeing over the best way to tackle a project or problem, or simply needing to voice a concern that you think is going unnoticed. In these cases, having a set dialogue or framework for opening a discussion is essential, as some people may feel intimidated while others won’t be equipped to do this without creating tension and difficulties.
Team norms are a way of setting up steps and courses of action for team members to take in a variety of situations, so that they can feel safe about communicating and feel more comfortable and happy in their environment.