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The Importance of Teamwork

Teamwork—working with other people to achieve a common goal—is essential in just about every domain, whether on the job, at home, or on the playing field.

Humans are social animals. Civilization itself is the result of the pooled effort of innumerable people over thousands of years. Looking back on examples of human collaboration can help researchers, organizations, and families determine how to maximize teamwork going forward.

Raising children or keeping a clean household, for example, requires cooperation and a fair division of the workload. The same applies at the office, where good teamwork is necessary for goals to be met and customers to be satisfied.

To maximize teamwork, it's important that all teammates share the same goals and are committed to an overall vision. Often it takes just one person not pulling their weight—or defying the group's goals—to derail the efforts of everyone else on the team.

Emotional contagion can play a part in teamwork. Since negative emotions can spread from person to person, discontent and negativity originating in one member may soon "infect" others. Thus, supporting the emotional needs of all members—as well as rooting out conflict and disagreement through positive participation and communication—is key to healthy group partnership and effective teamwork.

How Communication Affects Teamwork

Communication is essential to ensure that a team runs optimally. Every member should be encouraged to share their ideas and updates on progress—even if the news is bad—and other members should do their best to listen, evaluate without judgment, and offer a thoughtful response.

Poor communication—a boss shooting down, or shouting down, ideas from subordinates, or one employee consistently speaking over others—disrupts general cohesion. Even when other aspects of a team are functioning smoothly, ineffective communication can derail an entire project.

Communication isn't solely verbal. One key element of nonverbal communication is the ability to read others. Having team members who score high on the trait of social sensitivity is useful, because they may be more observant than most, and can read the emotional cues of other team members. Higher social sensitivity is also associated with higher emotional intelligence, which enables people to better understand themselves as well as those around them.

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