How to Take Charge of a Cranky Team

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Sometimes groups find themselves in a bad place. Team members are burned out, demoralized and just plain cranky. It can happen to the best of them. If it happens to your team, you’ve got to jump in and help the team change directions. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the leader or not – there is equal responsibility for all members of the team to try to salvage this situation.
So what’s a good way to deal with this?
First of all you’ve got to help the team acknowledge the situation. People won’t change a thing if they don’t recognize something needs changing. In a meeting, say something like “Everyone seems a little edgy these days. What’s going on?” Try to get people to see that there is indeed a negative atmosphere in the group. People need to see this clearly before attempting to change a thing.
Second, talking and listening helps. If the group is cranky, create some space for people to express themselves. The simple act of blowing off some steam can be quite cleansing for teams. Of course before anyone is honest about what they are feeling, there will need to be some foundational levels of trust already in place. One thing to avoid is dismissing the feelings of the first person who decides to speak up. Engage in some team-building activities such as a team’s day out, or go for camps and workshops to create a sense of kinship.
At some point you need to engage the group in a conversation about whether the symptoms indicate a real problem that must be addressed or rather a bad alignment of the stars which will pass on its own. If there’s a problem creating the crankiness, your job is to help the group focus its energy on dealing with it.
The alternative to the actions outlined above is the do-nothing approach. While this might work in rare circumstances, it usually does not. And your team’s performance will start to drop and this certainly isn’t going to help morale and the already negative atmosphere. A cranky team needs help. So jump in and do what you can.

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