How tribalism can hurt your company: What to do before it’s too late

The world of business is competitive, there is no doubt about it. The goal of the game is making money: Driving growth and reaping profit. As the competition becomes more intense the stakes get higher and our emotions can often let us down.

In this competitive ‘dog-eat-dog’ environment an inherent human tendency will sometimes emerge. Employees can start to adopt an “us vs. them” attitude, even within the same company. Your teams will then start to compete with each other, and not in the good sense. Different parts of the organization may try to out maneuver each other, sometimes in front of the customer.  In extreme cases, a team may even sabotage the work of another team. They became ‘tribes’ who are war with each other.

Once locked into this mindset your people lose sight of their place in the big picture. They cease to work collaboratively and colleagues from other departments become the enemy. They are now working against each other instead of working together as an important part of something bigger. It’s a lose-lose situation for both your company and your customer.

Fortunately, you can spot when this is starting to happen. There are tell-tale signs to look for. There are also preventative measures and solutions you can employ to either deter the situation or ameliorate the effects. I outlined the symptoms and counter-measures in a digital article in Harvard Business Review. If you are interested you can read it here. How Tribalism Hurts Companies, and What to Do About It

Robert Kovach is the Director of Leader Success for Cisco’s Leadership and Team Intelligence Practice Area. He has been an advisor to leadership teams of Fortune 500, FTSE 100 and FTSE Global 500 companies on driving business strategy through executive leadership effectiveness and organizational agility. The opinions expressed in this blog are his own and not those of Cisco. Contact him for speaking enquiries.

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