How to Help Your Team Members Play in the Same Sandbox – Even When They Don’t Get Along

When it comes to creating the right kind of team performance and ultimately the best customer experience, there are some interactive dynamics you should be aware of.  For example, here is what happened in the office of an admissions center of a local university. One team member had a deep and resonant voice. (He would have been great in radio). As he spoke his voice had the tendency to drown out his co-workers phone conversations.

This proved to be quite annoying to another member of his team while she spoke on the phone to her callers.

Since their workspace was only separated by partitions, the relationship between these two individuals became quite testy and argumentative. It created a tension that was felt throughout the entire department and made it difficult for the team members to work together.

Has something like this ever happened in your company? As the business owner or manager, how would you handle this type of situation?

According to humanistic thought leader, Craig Nathenson,Ph.D. “Our backgrounds which include how, where, and when we were raised, all play an important part in our differences. Our experiences play a big part. Our economic backgrounds matter. Our wired personalities from birth do as well, in addition to our beliefs and values. When we come to work we bring many desires, concerns, and challenges from home with us. As a result, the expectations we bring to work are large and many times are not possible to be met. This can lead to conflict, and it often it does.”

If your team of employees is like most other small businesses you have a variety of different behavior styles working there. That’s good, because it takes different types of people to successfully accomplish the different types of tasks that must be completed.

However, with different behavioral styles, there will be friction. At times, people are just not going to get along. This is normal and natural. However, if not dealt with properly, it can become quite annoying and a big source of inter-employee stress and psycho-drama. This can lead to a less productive team, and have an extremely negative impact on the quality of the customer experience your team is trying to create and maintain. In other words, it’s not good for business.

What can you do about this particular situation? Plenty. Behavioral profiles with the proper debriefing by an outside facilitator can be just what the doctor ordered. A behavioral profile is a tool I use with my clients to help assess the working style of their employees. It is extremely accurate and does wonders in building communication, trust and understanding between individuals within in an organization.

The best way to use a behavioral profile is with a 4 step debriefing strategy with an outside facilitator.  Here is how it works. After having the employee answer the assessment questions which generates the profile report, the assessment facilitator reviews with the owner or manager the employee’s profile. The second step is to separately debrief the employee. The third step is where the facilitator conducts a debriefing session with the owner or manager and the employee.  The fourth and final step is to do a group debriefing with all members of your team who have completed the profile. This approach goes a long way in helping your team members understand themselves. This can help to prevent and resolve the behavioral misunderstandings that inevitably take place between employees in your company.

Dr. Nathenson adds, “With greater self-awareness we will accept who we are, work on those elements which need to develop, and accept that others are in different phases of their own self-development”.

This 4 step debriefing strategy used with a behavioral profile is one of the best ways to help your team focus on resolving differences and building understanding, trust and rapport.

In my onsite consulting and training, another exercise I use to build trust and rapport is to split the employees into pairs and have them role play and practice using the wrong way-right way formula for resolving misunderstandings.

I ask the participants to do it the wrong way first. An example would sound something like this:

“You never get your paperwork processed in a timely manner. What’s wrong with you? Don’t you see how you are creating all kinds of problems for my department?”

Here he made his partner wrong. He blamed her personally for failing to provide the notification that he needed in a timely manner. Done in the real world, this approach usually will make the partner defensive and cause even greater repercussions.

Next I have them practice the right way, sounding something like this:

“When I do not promptly receive from you the notification to approve a customer’s credit I can’t process the order in a timely manner. How can we do this differently to speed up the process?”

In this approach the focus is on the action, not on the person. It opens the door for two-way communication to resolve the conundrum in a constructive manner.

The purpose of this exercise is to give the participants a tool to resolve their work relation issues in a productive and non-threatening manner.

Use this exercise in your next team meeting. Have them practice it a few times, and then be on the lookout for an opportunity to praise them when you see them using the right approach in the work place. This will go a long way in helping them play in the same sandbox and get along. This will ultimately create a more harmonious and less stressful workplace.

Job shadowing is another approach I would like to discuss in this article that can help to minimize workplace dysfunction you might be experiencing in your small business. Here is one way to use this strategy.

Pair up two people from different departments. For half a day, have team member A, observe team member B. Encourage team member A to ask his partner as many questions as necessary to clarify what it is team member B is doing, and why he is doing it that way. At the end of that observation period, team member A should have some suggestions on how team member B can improve his performance.

After that activity is completed, they switch roles and now team member B does the job shadowing.

Over the course of a year, make it a point to require and schedule every team member to job shadow everyone else in the company – you included. The results can be amazing.

So, there you have it, three strategies to help your team play in the same sandbox, even if they don’t get along. Which one will you try with your employees? Let me know how it goes.

Tom Borg Consulting, LLC  © All Rights Reserved

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations to have a high impact on customer acquisition, and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. To ask him a question or to hire Tom, please contact him at:  (734) 404-5909 or email him at: or visit his website at:


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Tom Borg

My name is Tom Borg. I am a business expert who works with small and mid-size companies to effectively and profitably improve customer acquisition and retention. I help these businesses through his use of my consulting, speaking, training and coaching. To ask me a question or to hire me, please contact me at: (734) 404-5909 or email me at: or visit my website at:

Tom Borg