5 Emotional Mistakes That Destroy Teams

Teamwork is critical to success, but too many teams become dysfunctional when members don’t have proper emotional intelligence. By Will Yakowicz 

Will_Yackowicz_Portrait-_59790Success in our society is usually credited to the CEO, the president, the general, the hero who grew up an orphan and made it to the top all alone. Teamwork, though, is vastly underrated. If you want your company to be successful, you need to make sure your employees can function well together.

Annie McKee, senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of Primal Leadershipwrites in Harvard Business Review about the bad behavior and emotional mistakes that lead to team dysfunction. Below, read about the errors you’re committing that may be ripping your team apart.

1. Don’t let your emotions control you.
To be a team player, you need to tap into your emotional intelligence. Allowing your emotions to seep out unfiltered is a big mistake. McKee describes the kind of toxic behavior you want to avoid: “Act on feelings and impulses, and don’t filter what you signal, say or do. Don’t let pesky things like social constraints or norms get in the way. Get really pissed off–and stay that way–when someone gets more than you do.” Due to the enormous stress we place on ourselves at work, our limbic system, which controls emotions and responses to stimuli, is running full steam. “Unfortunately, given the stress that people deal with at work today, an awful lot of people are walking around in a permanent state of amygdala hijack,” she warns.

2. Don’t stick to your guns.
‘Sticking to your guns’ is an “awful phrase,” McKee writes, likening it to ‘My way or the highway.’ “If you want to ruin a team, be rigid, single minded, and obsessive about your goals or how to get things done,” she says.

3. Don’t be a pessimist.
Negative emotions are contagious. This isn’t just some touchy-feely line. Humans mirror each other’s behavior. “If you want to mess with people’s minds and kill a team’s spirit, focus on everything that could go wrong,” McKee writes. “Scare people. Be cynical. Emotions are contagious; and negative emotions and the cynicism and biting humor that go with them kill the trust, creativity, enthusiasm, and happiness that are so important to group success.

4. Don’t believe the ends justify the means.
If you accomplish your goals at the expense of others, you will dismantle your team in no time. McKee says she worked with an executive who would get results at the expense of every employee and team he worked with. Initially, before the company brass figured it out, all they saw were his results. But he didn’t last long after they realized he had no empathy. “Naturally, these results weren’t sustainable,” she writes. As a leader and a productive team member, you need to be looking out for the group, not your promotion. Make sure your morals are balanced and you respect other people.

5. Don’t push away your feelings.
You need to be in touch with your feelings in order to work well with others. If you’re trying not to think too much about your feelings and motives, you’ll hurt the team. “A lack of self-awareness, whether conscious or not, is at the heart of pretty much all of the bad behavior I’ve seen in teams,” McKee says. Make sure you know what’s going on in your own head and start working through any issues you have that might manifest themselves through toxic behavior.

This article was written by Will Yakowicz and initially appeared in inc.com

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