Thoughts on team tension

Posted on August 20, 2014

We all want to work in a collaborative, open, communicative environment, right?

Ok. Maybe not all of you. But at the very least, you don’t want to work with people you dislike, have totally different values and ideas than you and you disagree with often.

In others word, you don’t want to have tension with your team. Right?

I’d actually say: wrong. Now you do not want to work with people you hate or don’t respect and teams should share a level of fundamental values about how to develop software. But tension doesn’t mean that you are working with assholes.

If you work with smart, thoughtful, passionate people, there will be tension sometimes and that’s a good thing.

If you want to expand your knowledge, write the best code, and create the best business, you must be challenged sometimes. You must be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking and developing. And for those of us that find this uncomfortable and hard, it manifests in tangible tension.

Studies show that diverse groups make better decisions. However, the process of getting there can be a little more difficult. By fleshing out the options and understanding each other’s point of view, everyone leaves on the same page and ready to move forward,

In my experience, if there is never any tangible tension on a team, it is because

  1. people on the team just don’t care or aren’t that smart or …
  2. the more likely scenario: there is tension, but one person or mindset so dominates the team that those who disagree are steamrolled and don’t bother.

The second scenario is the one I’m most concerned about, because to outsiders it seems that everything is hunky dory. In reality, members of the team we building up deep resentment that may not be able to be corrected before they leave. Or the dominant personalities get bored with always getting their way and leave. Either way you end up losing good people.

In the end, my philosophy is always to rip off the bandaid quickly and as soon as possible. It may not be super pleasant right now, but, in the end, everyone is on the same page and feels heard.

Being heard may be the most fundamental need of any human.

Plus the long term effects of waiting can be a silent killer.


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