Five Top Team Esteem Blocking Behaviours


By Randy Kennett

Team esteem is one of the most important drivers of organizational effectiveness in the workplace. Team esteem can be described as how people feel about the team, as well as how people feel about being a member of the team. Moreover, team esteem can have a powerful impact on any workplace.

Three Key Questions of Esteem
How to gauge the presence of team esteem is as simple as asking three primary questions:

  1. Do employees have a sense of efficacy, a belief and confidence in the entire team, to be successful and deal with challenges?
  2. Do employees have a sense of respect for the entire team, as its own identity, greater as a collective and collaborative unit?
  3. Do employees have a sense of acceptance and appreciation for all that comes with being a member of the team, the wins and losses, the successes and failures, the strengths and opportunities?

Self and Team Esteem
Keep in mind, when we reference the ‘entire’ team in the above points, we mean every single member: not some, not the majority—entire team. Although, team esteem may closely connect to team spirit and team morale, it may have the strongest relationship to self-esteem.

Self- esteem, how we feel about ourselves, has been defined as the degree that we consciously or unconsciously believe-in, respect, and accept ourselves, as well as our abilities to be successful and deal with challenges. Team esteem and self-esteem have the ability to be intertwined, meaning that how we feel about the team and being a member of the team can impact how we feel about ourselves. Similarly, how we feel about ourselves can impact how we feel about the team and being a member of the team.

Five Key Esteem-Blocking Behaviours
There is a cost and negative impact on both engagement and productivity in a workplace when unhealthy team esteem exists. Outlined below are five categories of critical behaviours to guard against and proactively manage that can damage both self and team esteem.

Cognitive Rigidity: This is closed mindedness by a team member(s) and stands in contrast to the positive esteem behaviours of Openness and Acknowledgement.

Examples of how Cognitive Rigidity may behave:

  • My “truth and reality” is the only “truth and reality”.
  • I’m right, and you are wrong.
  • Not letting go of the past. Not forgiving. Not apologizing.
  • Dismissive. Not listening. Raising voice.
  • Over controlling. Dominant.
  • Not validating someone’s feelings or thoughts. Minimizing someone’s emotions.
  • Trying to make someone feel guilty.

Withholding: This is disengagement by a team member(s) and stands in contrast to the positive esteem behaviours of Contributing and Giving.

Examples of how Withholding may behave:

  • Silent treatment. Avoiding. Hiding conflict.
  • About ‘me’ winning, not ‘everyone’ winning.
  • Not recognizing each other. “Downer with someone else’s success.”
  • Not thanking each other.
  • Not working as hard, and giving your best efforts for others.
  • Late, not showing up on time.
  • Failing to make a decision or following-through.
  • Passive aggressive (i.e. Withholding something that causes the other person to make a mistake.)
  • Forming subgroups (i.e. Where there are some people who are invited and some people who are not invited, causing “insiders” and “outsiders”.)

Breaching Territorial Boundaries: This is stepping over the limits by a team member(s) and stands in contrast to the positive esteeming behaviours of Honouring and Regarding.

Examples of how Breaching Territorial Boundaries may behave:

  • Interrupting each other.
  • Taking credit for the positive accomplishments of others.
  • Not respecting personal privacy.
  • Undermining others. Doing someone else’s job/responsibilities.
  • Crossing Office Space, Time, and/or Personal Boundaries.

Attacking Others: This is a demeaning act by a team member(s) and stands in contrast to the positive esteeming behaviours of Supporting and Advocating.

Examples of how Attacking Others may behave:

  • Judging someone. Labeling someone.
  • Joking and making fun of someone’s differences.
  • Talking behind someone’s back. Spreading rumours. Gossiping.
  • Devaluing others. Insulting. Sarcasm.

Rationalizing: This is defensiveness by a team member(s) and stands in contrast to the positive esteeming behaviours of Responsibility and Accountability.

Examples of how Rationalizing may behave

  • Deflecting. Making excuses. Finger pointing. Blaming others.
  • Being the victim, not helping to solve a problem. “Poor me.”
  • Whining. “It’s all your/their fault.”
  • Counter attacking by pointing out someone else’s flaws and failures.
  • Justifying negative behaviours/communication.

Esteem, Emotion and Effectiveness
Self and team esteem are definitely grounded in emotions, and when we employ people, their heartfelt emotions come with them. As an emotion, team esteem can either influence possible failure provoking feelings like resentment, isolation, and negativity, or success provoking positive feelings like passion, enthusiasm, and care.

The strength and types of emotions elicited may be some of the biggest determining variables in the equation of team engagement, productivity, and overall organizational effectiveness in the workplace.  Remaining vigilant of the five primary team esteem blockers strengthens your team’s ability to maintain a positive balance and forward momentum.

Randy Kennett is presenting Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement in Vancouver on April 10. For this and other professional development opportunities, please refer to BC HRMA’s online calendar.

Randy Kennett is a Senior Advisor with Edge Learning B.C., Director with Hone Consulting, and an Instructor with post-secondary institutions. Randy provides advising and facilitation services for a variety clients (including non-profit, government, and businesses), continuing education programs, and the BC HRMA professional development program.

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