Teaching and Learning with Technology

Building Blocks for Teams



Student Tips

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Why Teams?

Roles

Meetings

Communication

Organization

Bad Behaviors

Conflicts

What happens if a team member isn't doing his or her part?

This Page: What Constitutes "Unproductive Behavior"? | What to Do?

Some conflict or disagreement is a normal part of team work, and it is best to set meeting ground rules or procedures to deal with disagreement in meetings calmly.

However, one or team members may show "unproductive" behaviors which interfere with completing the task or team dynamics.

What is "Unproductive Behavior"?

Clearly Unproductive

Some behaviors are clearly detrimental to the functioning of the team. These include:

  1. Consistently missing meetings
  2. Consistently missing deadlines
  3. Never coming prepared to meetings
  4. Not answering e-mail or messages in a reasonable time
  5. Discourteous or disrespectful language

When Excessive "Team Behavior" is Unproductive

Other behaviors may be acceptable and even beneficial in moderation, but in an extreme form, can be disruptive to the team. For example

Normal/Productive

Extreme/Unproductive

Raising a Concern Nitpicking - Questioning or objecting to every possible detail on the project
Asking Questions Missing Details - Constantly asking questions because you were not paying attention the first time
Ownership/Responsibility Possessiveness - Refusal to allow anyone to alter or critique the work you have done for the project
Principled Uncompromising - Never accepting any proposed compromises
Listening & Reflecting Lurking - Never contributing in team meetings or other communications
Staying in Touch Nudging - Always sending reminders and not allowing members a reasonable interval before responding before sending out more notes
Follows Procedure Inflexible - Not allowing for changes in a plan or agenda
On top of things Doing Everything - Not allowing other members to make contributions
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What to do?

Generally, it is best to make a significant effort to resolve problems within the team before contacting the instructor.

If one or more people are showing unproductive behavior, try these steps:

  1. First, the team should decide if the behavior in question is really unproductive or just a part of the team process. Does the behavior?
    1. Interfere with the team's ability to complete project work?
    2. Interfere with the team's ability to reach true consensus?
    3. Significantly interfere with team morale? Morale may not be perfect all the time, but people should be able to work together.
  2. Make sure a specific behavior has been identified as unproductive. The problem is with the behavior not with the person.

  3. When discussing the behavior with a person, try to frame the issue as:

    "I/We feel (frustrated/concerned) when you (fill in behavior) because it (explain how it affects the team)."
  4. When appropriate, acknowledge that the person may be acting with the best of intentions.

  5. Allow the person to express his or her side of the issue, but make sure he or she understands why the team is concerned.

  6. If necessary, attempt to reach a compromise so that both the individual and the person are satisfied.

In some cases, a team member may be "missing in action." If that person has not responded to the team's repeated attempts to get in touch or never appears to meet with the team, it may be best to inform the instructor.

The team and the instructor can work on a solution agreeable to the team.

HANDOUTS: Additional tips are avilable in the Penn State Schreyer Institute handouts.

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