Factionalism is: A condition in which a team or company is split into two or more smaller groups with differing and often opposing opinions or interests. (Dictionary.com)
We expect teams and departments within any company to work well together all the time. This expectation can be unrealistic. In reality, every company will have conflicts here and there. It’s when those disagreements don’t go away that factionalism erupts. It creates dysfunctional workplace cultures and hurts employee satisfaction, customer retention, and the bottom line.
What Causes Factionalism?
When leaders cannot satisfactorily resolve animosity, competition, indifference, and ongoing disputes, teams, co-workers, and bosses often take on bad attitudes, take sides, or blame others.
Factionalism erupts due to:
- Negative attitudes by bosses and leaders toward each other or a small group of people
- Hiring, promoting, or job transferring people that don’t fit the job responsibilities
- Pitting departments or groups of employees against one another for competing needs
- Adversarial mindsets (e.g., sales reps blame customer service or operations when a customer is lost)
- Allowing egos to get in the way (e.g., “we” v. “I” OR “us” v. “them”)
- Forgetting about the importance of the mission and vision of the company
- Withholding important information
- Not holding remote and hybrid workers to performance and company standards
- Blaming the customer or group of employees for mistakes or problems
How to Be the Solution to Factionalism and Not the Contributor to the Problem
Communication, Communication, Communication. There are many bosses and employees who are not good or great communicators. Poor communication causes people to take sides with “he said this” v. “no, she said that” v. “I thought it meant this.” As the boss or leader, ask questions to uncover the true intention and facilitate win-win-win outcomes. Remember, factionalism often begins as a small solvable concern before it erupts into an impenetrable mountain.
Solve Conflicts Immediately. When someone deliberately and consistently impedes progress creating confusion or chaos, s/he needs to be coached or removed from the job or team, or conflict will escalate.
- Withholding information and resources
- Ignoring emails or advice
- Making the solutions more complicated than necessary
- Blocking issues from being fixed
- Hostility towards others’ ideas
- Refusal to take advice that can make a difference
- Failure to admit mistakes
- Unwillingness to resolve team conflict
The truth is that when your team members (or you) lack the communication, project management, and people skills required, change is necessary. Hire an executive coach and use a performance improvement plan to ensure they are making progress.
Get Real. Gossip, myths, and lack of critical thinking impede the truth. Also, the lack of top-down or down-up conversations (communication) hinders addressing the real issues. You must realize that when customers and top talent leave, it’s important to tell yourself and co-workers the truth about resources, company and people changes, and customer requirements.
Hold Team Retreats and Inter-Team/Department Discussions. Training in communication, team building, team meetings, and confidence building are just a few examples that help everyone keep the lines of communication open to reduce factionalism. When your employees or teams get territorial about their work and systems, it’s usually because they do minimal work to get by (e.g., quiet quitting) or fear asking for help. Hire an outside facilitator to create insightful group discussions, ensure everyone is heard, and keep everyone engaged.
Use Job Fit Assessments to Understand Differences Objectively. When you or your team blame others for not thinking and working like you do, it’s time to understand “why objectively.”
In my experience, using a qualified job fit tool can reduce factionalism. It helps everyone understand and appreciate differences objectively; productive conversations and communication open up too. Job fit assessments have the highest scientific validation and reliability and provide more accurate data. They can eliminate miscommunication, blaming or nitpicking, or other disrespectful behaviors and attitudes that create factionalism.
Fulfilling Expectations. When you expect others to get along AND make your own effort to get along with others, you will reduce factionalism. Enforce policies and procedures, set clear guidelines on ‘no-tolerance policies’ (e.g., choice of words, favoritism), and refuse to allow your team to bypass others, citing the need for expediency. (Hint: It’ll actually take longer to resolve when the detour is discovered!)
©Jeannette Seibly 2023 All Rights Reserved
Jeannette Seibly is a champion for bosses and teams delivering intended results. Does your company or department have a persistent problem? With Jeannette’s depth of experience and wisdom, she guides clients through sticky situations and challenging relationships for dynamic results! Contact Jeannette for a confidential discussion.
A note from Jeannette about factionalism in your workplace culture: As bosses and leaders, it starts with you! You set the example and the tone within your teams of how to get along and work well with others. Get involved. Listen to concerns. Have conversations for win-win-win outcomes. Contact me for a confidential discussion about how to reduce and eliminate factionalism.
The coach is in! Are you ready to build your confidence and success as a boss? Great bosses work with an experienced executive coach as a sounding board. I have extensive experience and wisdom in guiding bosses and leaders to hire, coach, and manage their teams to achieve unprecedented results. Contact me to learn more about my in-depth, one-on-one, customized coaching program. Remember, coaching speeds up your ability to manage, lead, and influence others.
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