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Teamwork is essential whether in business, medicine, sports, charitable activities, or social groups. When multiple teams are established, however, conflicts can arise. Loyalty to a team, especially if personal relationships are involved -- for example, friends or enemies within an organization who are on the same, competing, or complementary teams -- can create tensions or conflicts that could undermine unit cohesiveness and effectiveness.
When teams are organized to function in a competitive environment, effective management is vital to ensure the outcome is one that best serves the interests of the organization. When teams are established with complementary missions, it is incumbent upon management to ensure the teams are not working at cross-purposes so that independent outcomes are not incompatible. Personal chemistry within teams is always important, and it is the responsibility of management to assemble groups with individuals known to work well together. That chemistry can breakdown when individuals serving on more than one committee develop loyalties to individuals or groups that undermine the integrity of the process if that loyalty manifests itself in betrayal of other teams. Friendships can inject problems into the process if it is placed it above team loyalty.
Romantic relationships that cross team boundaries are a problem if the relationship has been discreet and few if any members of the organization are cognizant of that relationship. An additional variable could involve a hierarchical structure in which an individual who is on multiple teams feels his or her personal interest is better served by favoring one team over another.
An example of this last situation occurs in Congress. Senator X serves on two committees with similar but different agendas and slightly overlapping areas of jurisdiction. One of those committees is considered more powerful than the other, and both are operating in competition with each other for jurisdiction over an issue. Senator X agrees in private that the weaker of the two committees has rightful jurisdiction, and even participates in that committee's operations with respect to the issue in question. Simultaneously, however, the senator is working behind the scenes with the more powerful committee to undermine the weaker committee's position within the process used to arbitrate such disputes.
Another example of teams working at cross purposes involves the health care arena. Professionals and organizations tend to define a problem or task in terms of their personal experiences and levels of training. A medical case involving a complicated condition that may or may not require surgery may involve the establishment of a team to discuss the case and make a determination as to the best course of action, for example, rely solely on chemotherapy or pursue a course involving surgery and chemotherapy. Surgeons may be temperamentally inclined toward the surgical option. Oncologists at the table, however, may be confident that chemotherapy alone stands the best chance of curing the illness. Specialists are prone toward viewing problems through the prism of their own education and training. Relationships on the team can subtly influence perspectives, and common group dynamics can affect the outcome. The point, of course, is that failure to function effectively in a team environment involving one or more teams can undermine the integrity of the process and result in failure.
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