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Having a Great Culture: Improve Teamwork

A healthcare clinic was experiencing significant conflict with the hourly employees.  The employees were constantly arguing and complaining to the manager.  The manager became aware that the two groups of employees had divided based upon their country of national origin.  

The manager was prepared to hire a new staff for the back of the house but before taking that step, took a shot at team building exercises.   

The employees resisted at first but over time, the employees began to share stories about their lives through the exercises. One employee talked about leaving her daughter behind to be raised by her mother.  The group listened in silence and then slowly formed a big hug around her.  

Story after story brought understanding and connection to the group.  The fighting not only stopped but was replaced by an environment of employee collaboration.

For small business owners and managers, managing through employee conflict can be a time consuming and distracting task whether it’s retail teamwork or teamwork. Team building exercises work because we build connections when we see the human side of our co-workers. When we connect to our co-workers, turnover drops and productivity increases. According to a  Gallup poll, employees are 40% more engaged in their work when they have a close connection to a coworker. Think about the best job you ever had.  You probably had co-workers who cared about you and you felt connected to.  Connections to others can be powerful forces in employee engagement.  And it’s easy to accomplish with exercises that can be completed as easily as once a week for 5 minutes or at the occasional team event.


Team Events

An event outside of the workplace builds common ground and relationships.  When selecting group events, base the event on what your employees like to do.   Be careful, though, not to overdo it.  Too many team events will backfire as employees resent the expectation to spend even more time away from their personal obligations.

Morale Boosting Team Building Event Ideas

  1. Scavenger Hunt
  2. Yoga Class
  3. Rock Climbing
  4. Skate Board Park
  5. Escape the Room
  6. Volunteer at an organization an employee is involved with
  7. Organize a volunteer day for a customer in need
  8. Bowling
  9. Karaoke
  10. Boating on a local lake


Team Building Exercises

Team building can be accomplished in as little as five minutes a week.  As employees share more about their background, they develop a level of understanding and empathy that bonds them even across workplace conflict.

First choose light-hearted exercises to break the ice.  Ask everyone to share a favorite vacation they went on.  Or what animal they would be if they could and why.  Maybe where they have travelled to most recently or where they’d like to travel.  

Then, graduate to exercises that get employees out of their comfort zone like singing a song or performing a talent in front of their co-workers.  (When we are out of our comfort zone we are more vulnerable and when we see others in a more vulnerable state, we begin to feel connected to them.)  

Ultimately, have employees answer questions that require them to share a bit about who they are as people.  They can tell the team the story of their life in 2 minutes.  Or tell their colleagues about an accomplishment personal or professional that they are most proud of.  They can talk about someone in their life who has helped them become the person they are.

As soon as co-workers let their guards down and share a bit of their background, we find common ground and sometimes, connection.  Ease fear from shy employees by offering a list of options the selected employee can choose from.  If there are language barriers, assign a bilingual employee to translate.


Conflict Management

As you implement team building, every skilled manager needs to understand the basics of conflict management.  Conflict is a part of any relationship, especially a working relationship. Employees have the capacity to resolve most conflicts on their own without involving management.  When management does step in to resolve employee conflict, it can increase the amount of conflict in a workplace as employees use management as a weapon in their employee drama. Don’t get pulled into employee drama unless you absolutely need to.  And if you do get pulled in, determine the facts.


Ask for Feedback

Forbes lists the ability to ask for feedback as a differentiating factor of successful leaders.   This habit allows managers to understand where employees are hitting road blocks that cause frustration and a lack of motivation.  

Here’s a real-world example.  A manager at a party supply store was having a high rate of employee disciplinary issues but was unaware of the frustration the employees felt about their boss’s management style.  The employees felt their manager was scheduling too few employees per shift, thus causing employees to struggle to assist customers, prepare balloon orders, and keep the store in stock. As a result, the employees became increasingly frustrated, and work performance declined.  The manager, wondering why performance decline, requested feedback, and she quickly uncovered how employees really felt.  Although she could not change the work schedule, she was able to communicate to employees her appreciation for their hard work and implemented processes to alleviate some of the work stress.


Asking for feedback is simple.

  1. Take time every few weeks to have a one-on-one conversation with your employees.
  2. Communicate what is going well and the goals you are continuing to strive for.
  3. Ask the employee if they have any feedback about your management style or about the business that can help you to achieve your goals more quickly.  


At first, employees may be reluctant to give much information but over time, your employees will feel more comfortable sharing how they really feel.  By implementing the habit of asking employees for feedback individually and earnestly, managers gain greater respect and commitment from their employees.  And a culture of true teamwork can take shape.  

The Homebase Guide to Creating a Great Team Culture

In the Homebase Guide to Creating a Great Team Culture, we cover:​

1. Introduction & Team Culture Quiz
2. Culture Fundamentals: Respect and Appreciate your Employees

3. Having a Great Culture: Improve Teamwork

4. The Cultural Holy Grail: Empowered Employees
5. Want to Reduce Turnover Among Your Employees? Try Advanced Scheduling
6. My Employees Are Fighting: How to Manage Conflict in a Small Business
7. Career Development for Hourly Employees When There is No Room for Growth

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