I recently read the term “unhealthy agreement” In W. Gibb Dyer’s book “Team Building: Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance“. I immediately thought about the term group think, and wondered if these two terms were synonymous.
With unhealthy agreement “teams (and team members) frequently take actions in contradiction to what they really want to do…” (Dyer, 2013, p 160). Likewise, with group think individuals may go along with the team idea simply in order to avoid conflict. In both cases, members of the team realize the idea is not good, but they remain silent.
Ideas and projects fail when people decide not to speak up. Dyer says this type of behavior is a “major source of dysfunction in an organization” (p 160).
I have experienced several team failures as a result of unhealthy agreements. Years ago I knowingly kept quiet when my co-worker made a decision about a project we were working on. When the project fell through my boss called me in her office and asked: “How did that get by you???” I responded, “I knew it was a bad idea, but I did not feel like fighting again.” To that she yelled, “I pay you to fight!” My teammate and I generally experienced good outcomes on our projects; but, the road to victory was always a battered one.
In the instance of this one time when I chose to remain silent, the amount of re-work and patch-work necessary to make up for the project’s failure made the fight we should have had seem so insignificant It even caused some resentment between us for a little while.
Groupthink and unhealthy agreements are bad for teams and team projects. Any team whose interactions generally involve “unhealthy agreements” ‘may look strong at first glance, but at its core the team will always be weak. Most likely, this team will be plagued with issues with attrition, mediocre results, and will struggle to attract and keep their most talented team members.
Why? Because top performers know nothing great comes without a fight.
Dyer, W., Dyer J., and Dyer, W., (2013). Team Building – Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance. San Francisco, CA, John Wiley & Sons, Inc