Cooperation in Teams: How do you know people are not cooperating?

by Sari van Poelje

Cooperation in Teams: How do you know people are not cooperating?

So, my name is Sari van Poelje, I’m an expert in agile, innovative design and I fly all over the world helping businesses innovate as quickly as they innovate their products. One of the questions I often get is, “When do we know that a team is not in a cooperative mood?” Actually there’s four types of behaviors we look at to check if people are in cooperation or not.

1. Avoidance: What we see when people are not in cooperation is one, avoidance. What do we see, for instance? People not coming to meetings, people not responding to requests, people not engaging with each other. We can actually measure how much time people spend with each other or how many emails people respond to. And based on that number we can predict if people are going to cooperate or not.

2. Responsiveness: The second thing we look at to check if people are in a cooperative relationship is responsiveness. So what we see when people are in a cooperative relationship is that they respond to what John Gottman calls relational bids. So a relational bid is anything in which you ask the other person for attention or you ask the other person to engage with you. So if I would say to you, “Hey, look out of that window,” and you would actually turn your head and do it, it means that you have a connection with me and you’re responding to me.

If I ask you, “Hey, can you help me solve this problem?” And you actually engage with me, it means that you’re in an open and cooperative relationship. We can actually count the number of relational bids that people do in teams and check if people are responding to them. And that gives us a measure of cooperation.

 

 

3. Competitive Bids: The third thing we look at is competitive bids. So one of the things that really destroys cooperation in teams is if people are in competition, there’s two ways we can check for this.

One is, are people in competition in the sense of, “Mine is bigger than yours.” Or, “Am I better than you?” And people actually competing with each other for status or position. So if in a team people are status-oriented, we probably know that cooperation is going to be very difficult because almost everything they do will be to enhance their own status or position instead of thinking of the wellbeing as a whole.

The second thing we check for in these competitive bids are people actually competing for care, we say. So that means if I say, “Oh, I’m more needy than you are,” in a team, “I need more help. The manager needs to pay more attention to me.” And there’s a couple of people in that team doing that kind of competition for needs, then we probably know cooperation is going to be very, very difficult.

4. Gamey-ness: The fourth thing we really look at is how gamey are people in teams. So if people are very, very gamey, so we say, “A game is a non-solving pattern of behavior.” So if you see repetitive conversations about something that in the end does not get solved, we know people are in a game. So, for example, at home let’s say you have a conversation about who puts out the trash and I say, “Hey, it’s your turn to put out the trash.” And you respond, “No, I did that yesterday.”

And I say, “Hey, I cooked today.” And you go, “No, no, no, no, but I groomed the dog,” or something. We go on and on like this and then in the end, I say, “If you really love me, you’d have put out the trash.” We know you’re in a game. So the real conversations is quite different from the conversation you’re having and you’re actually competing for something.

So we have a measure for cooperation where we check to see how much time people spend in games. So non-repetitive, non-problem solving patterns of behavior and how much time they actually spend solving a problem.

Based on four factors, we know if people are in cooperation or competition.

In the next videos we’ll take a deeper look at some more of these issues. Follow me to find out more.

 
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Sari van PoeljeSari van Poelje has 30 years experience of innovation on the interface of leadership and organizational development, executive coaching and transactional analysis both as a director within several multinationals and as an international consultant. Specialization in creating agile leadership teams and business innovation! She is the author of numerous articles and books on leadership and change.

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