Why Teamwork Strategies Fail – Part I

By Greg Hunter, RT (R) (T)

      Beth Boynton, RN, MS


The power of teamwork in the realization of institutional goals cannot be underestimated. Because teamwork has been recognized at the main fuel that makes all systems work like properly oiled gears to achieve desired outcomes, without it, there can hardly be any healthcare delivery system to talk about.

Yet teamwork is easier said than done. In our life as healthcare workers, we undergo series of seminars and trainings to enhance how we learn to work with ease with other workers to produce desired results. The question is, did those seminars and trainings actually work? Did they produce long term positive results? The evidences of the worthiness of the hours spent on these seminars and trainings may be difficult to measure because they are not tangible enough.

For this reason, a lot of measures have been undertaken to identify barriers that prevent teamwork from working its wonders. Let us look into this first category:

Attitudinal problems

As much as people are diverse so are their attitude towards work and co-workers. In a unit alone where you work, you would easily identify these types of workers:

  • The asserters. They get frustrated when they do not get what they want. They have to have the best equipment and they are the priority to use them.  Even in small things like party themes, their ideas win. The challenge with dealing with these people is that they have trouble accepting the ideas of others because they think that their ideas are much more superior to others’. They tend to withhold support if the agenda of the others have been pushed forward.
  • Those with bullying behavior. Do healthcare institutions have them? Yes. In fact, bullying among healthcare workers have a been a consistent phenomenon that pose additional load to managerial costs and lead to decline in productivity and an increase in turnover rates. With these types of behaviors, a culture characterized by undercurrents, chaos and hostility is created which in turn affect interpersonal relationships. In this culture, there is hardly any teamwork at all. Furthermore, in a work environment where bullying behavior is present, feedback gets marooned or even muted. Also, those bystanders who witness bullying just look away, or say nothing at all.
  • The functional workers. Functional workers are very good at following orders but they tend to lack contributions when it comes to citing ways on how to improve services. They also lack skills on how to work with others. They work best alone.
  • The change resilient. People who are stereotypical about transformation would almost always resist change. Is there a new system of documentation that the unit is utilizing? You hear them say that the old system is way better than the new one.
  • The silent protesters. The silent protesters are those who are meek in a meeting that aims to discuss process improvement, yet after the conference, they clearly oppose every idea that has been discussed. They are the type of people who have developed a habit of disagreeing with any proposal brought forward without offering any solution to a problem or coming up with their own ideas of positive change.
  • The early phase enthusiasts. These are workers who are ecstatic about a new project. They give time and energy into embracing proposed changes, but soon their enthusiasm wanes to a point wherein they either become mediocre or sometimes even indifferent to work. The challenge with this attitude is that the team usually let the early phase enthusiasts take responsibility for the bulk of the work to be done and rely on their high energy to keep people mobilized. The result is, in the long term, the team has accomplished very little.

Attitudinal problems abound in the healthcare setting. Are you beset by these challenges? ManageUp understands that no solution is one-size-fits-all to teamwork problems. They tailor-fit services by getting to know their client well and perform thorough assessment before coming-up with final solutions to address workforce development issues.

On the next part of the series of this article, see the rest of the reasons why teamwork strategies don’t work!


Workplace Bullying among Healthcare Workers Antonio Ariza-Montes,* Noel M. Muniz,† María José Montero-Simó,† and Rafael Angel Araque-PadillaInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2013 Aug; 10(8): 3121–3139. Published online 2013 Jul 24. doi:  10.3390/ijerph10083121

Promoting patient-centered care: a qualitative study of facilitators and barriers in healthcare organizations with a reputation for improving the patient experience. Karen Luxford, Dana Gelb Safran, Tom Delbanco DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/intqhc/mzr024 510-515 First published online: 17 May 2011

Team Power and Synergy. Project Planning and  Program Management Essentials.