The 10 Landmines that Disable Team Communication

Published: January 9, 2017

It’s usually the topic we’re not discussing that wields the most power in the room. Subtle and often hidden from view, insidious obstacles make collaboration difficult. These landmines are both sins of omission and sins of commission. Usually, we know they are causing or perpetuating struggle but we’re not willing to risk the consequences of unveiling them for open communication. So, we make them normal in our culture. Consider these ten landmines and perform a quick assessment of your own team.

Unhealthy Norms: When bullying and disparagement are tolerated, they are also sanctioned.

Misaligned Vision: While there may be many paths to the same destination, everyone must agree on the endgame.

Unresolved Conflict: The stress of disagreement makes it difficult to maintain professionalism. Conflicts rarely resolve themselves. Instead, they get stockpiled only to be reignited later.

Lack of Connection: Work and life are not balances on a ledger. They are both environments that fuel human connection and the foundation of teamwork.

Failure to be Accountable: Every chance to follow through with a commitment is a maker or breaker of trust.

Disrespect: If teammates are allowed to hurt each other, the workplace never becomes safe for true collaboration.

Fear of Taking Smart Risks: Growth requires stretching and discomfort. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Inability to Leverage Differences: Optimally, the number of perspectives acknowledged at the table should equal the number people sitting at the table.

Resistance to Mourning: While unpleasant, sadness and depletion are functionally necessary components of managing change following a loss. Skimming over the significance of the impact will only subtract from the effort to reorganize.

Breakdown of Efforts to Refocus: Because change is constant, embracing new circumstances is the fuel for resilience. The energy needed to cope arises from this reinvestment.

All teams confront these barriers at one time or another. They are outgrowths of human interaction. The challenge is to remain attentive to which obstacle is getting you stuck and making it difficult to move forward in a healthy way. Once you’ve identified your team’s landmine, collaborate on a plan to disable it rather than letting it disable you.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.