How to Improve Team Cohesion in the Workplace

Nataša Mlađenović
Nataša Mlađenović
Aug 16, 20227 minute read

The one thing that is always talked about, but never really defined, is team cohesion. You've probably heard of it before - team cohesion is that elusive quality that makes the team work well together.

And it's not just that it's not defined - team cohesion can be hard to measure, too. It's not like you can take a team cohesion test or ask people how cohesive they think their team is.

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It's, therefore, no wonder that something that is so hard to define, and even harder to measure, would be misunderstood even though it's such an important part of team success.

So, in this article, we're going to take a closer look at team cohesion. We'll explore what it is, why it's important, and how you can improve team cohesion in your workplace.

Team Cohesiveness Definition - What is Team Cohesion?

Team cohesion is often described as the 'glue' that holds the team together. It's the team spirit, or the sense of camaraderie, that makes team members want to work together towards a common goal.

It's important to note that team cohesion is not the same as team morale. Team morale is about how happy and motivated team members are, whereas team cohesion is about how well team members work together.

That's what makes it so abstract and hard to define - team cohesion is more of a feeling than anything else. It's the sum of all the small interactions and relationships between team members that create a strong and healthy team that works well together.

Why is Team Cohesion Important?

If you understand human relationships in general, the importance of team cohesion is quite self-explanatory.

After all, we all know and understand that human relationships are essential for our mental and emotional well-being. They make us feel supported, valued, and connected to others. They help us to feel like we belong.

And when we feel like we belong, we're more likely to be motivated and engaged in what we're doing. We're also more likely to help each other grow and develop, and that's true for both personal and professional relationships.

In fact, studies have shown that team cohesion has a significant impact on team performance. Another study found that employees who felt a strong sense of belonging to their team were more likely to stay with the company and that teams with high levels of cohesion had less conflict and more trust.

There are several reasons why team cohesion is so important for team success, the major ones being:

  • Team cohesion builds trust among team members. Trust is essential for team members to work together effectively. If team members don't trust each other, they won't be able to cooperate and collaborate effectively.
  • Team cohesion improves communication among team members. If team members don't feel comfortable communicating with each other, it will be difficult for the team to coordinate and work together effectively.
  • Team cohesion increases team members' motivation. When team members feel like they're part of a team, they're more likely to be motivated to achieve the team's goals. This is because team members feel a sense of responsibility for the team's success.

Team cohesion is therefore important simply because it's essential for team members to be able to work together effectively. The strong relationships that are built through team cohesion create a foundation for trust, communication, and motivation - all of which are essential for any team to be successful.

How to improve team cohesion in your workplace

And now we come to the hard part: How do you improve something so abstract and hard to define?

Truth be told, it's not something that can be forced. By just grouping a bunch of people and telling them to work well together, you're not going to create a cohesive team.

Team cohesion is something that needs to be built over time. It starts with creating the right environment and culture in your workplace, and then it's about investing time and energy into developing relationships between team members.

Here are some specific things you can do to improve team cohesion in your workplace:

1. Establish a clear mission and vision for the team

In order for a team to be able to work harmoniously together towards a common goal, it's important that the team has a clear mission and vision - It should be something that all team members are aware of and buy into.

This is not an easy thing to do, as "increasing sales" isn't as inspiring as "helping people lead healthier lives." But, if you can capture the essence of what the team is trying to achieve in a clear and concise way, it will go a long way in helping team members work together effectively.

2. Encourage team-building activities

Yes, we know - team buildings have become somewhat of a joke in recent years. But the truth is, that team-building activities can actually be helpful in improving team cohesion.

Team building activities help team members get to know each other better and build trust. They also provide an opportunity for team members to have fun together and bond over shared experiences.

So, if you're looking for ways to improve team cohesion, consider investing in some team-building activities. Just make sure that you don't go too over-the-top with the activities - keep it simple and fun.

3. Promote a culture of open communication

Open communication is essential for any healthy relationship, and that includes the relationships between team members. If team members feel like they can't speak up or share their ideas openly, it's going to be difficult for the team to function effectively.

To promote a culture of open communication, you need to encourage team members to share their ideas and feedback with each other. And in order to do that, you'll need to provide them with a safe and respectful environment where they can do so.

4. Set goals together and celebrate successes as a team

One way to increase team cohesion is to involve team members in setting goals and objectives for the team. This will help the team feel like they're working towards something that they have a personal stake in.

It's also important to celebrate successes as a team. Every success, be it big or small, should be celebrated. This will help team members feel like they're part of a winning team and that their efforts are appreciated.

5. Address conflict head-on

If there's one thing that can destroy team cohesion, it's unresolved conflict. In order to avoid the lingering effects of conflict, it's important to address it head-on as soon as it arises. If you let conflict fester, it will only become worse and it will eventually lead to the disintegration of the team.

This doesn't mean that team members need to agree on everything - in fact, healthy conflict can be a good thing, as long as it's resolved in a constructive way.

Studies have shown that conflict management has a direct, positive effect on team cohesion, so make sure to check the pulse of the team on a regular basis and address any conflict that might be brewing. Do, however, try to be subtle about it - you do not want this to come across as meddling.

6. Avoid micromanaging team members' work

Micromanaging team members' work is a surefire way to kill team cohesion.

Building cohesion in the workplace takes as much time and effort as any other relationship. The key is to focus on the things that will bring the team closer together, and one of the most important ones is trust.

Team members will feel like you don't trust them if you question everything they do. And if you don't trust them, why should they trust you?

Another way micromanagement kills team cohesion is by not allowing team members to take ownership of their work. That's going to lead to a feeling of disengagement and apathy.

So, if you want to build team cohesion, avoid micromanaging team members' work. Instead, focus on setting clear expectations and then giving team members the freedom to meet those expectations in their own way.

Summary

Humans are social beings. We love connecting with one another, and feeling like we're part of a group. It's not just a feel-good thing - it's an innate human characteristic that helps us survive and thrive.

That's why team cohesion is so important in the workplace - it can make the difference between a group of people who just go through the motions and a true team that works together to achieve common goals.

Unfortunately, that does not happen overnight, and it requires a lot of time, effort, and energy to maintain. But it is so worth it when you see the benefits in productivity, creativity, and even just general happiness in the workplace.

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