The Knowledge Hub of IMD
Share
FacebookFacebook icon TwitterTwitter icon LinkedInLinkedIn icon Email

Brain circuits

How to spot team entrenchment

Published 22 July 2021 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

In the workplace, people naturally divide into groups of “like-minded” others. We often spend most of our time at work organized into silos or divisions, clusters, or even interest groups. Group entrenchment happens when people start to become so identified with their (sub)groups, that the group itself can become “who I am” instead of “what I do”, or “what my profession is”. When this happens, it can trigger a deeper and more “fixed” division between “us and them” and excluding behavior (regardless of whether such a division exists or not). These types of divisions are the basis of a silo mentality and can ignite negative conflict and decrease communication, innovation, and productivity.

Leaders should keep an eye out for emerging subgroups that can ultimately lead to entrenchment. In part one of this two-part series, we focus on the identification of groups.

Do you have teams that are split between the office and remote work? When part of a team is co-located, they can easily share informal and nonverbal interactions that allow them to more easily find things in common. This can result in subgroups with different levels of shared trust, as well as different shared information and commitment to action.

Are people split into subgroups based on surface-level characteristics? These are factors such as race, age, gender, and language. These groups most often form in face-to-face environments or early on because similarity to others is apparent. This type of subgrouping is generally associated with negative outcomes like intergroup conflict.

Are people grouping along deep-level identities? These subgroups can take longer to emerge and are formed along people’s values, beliefs, religion, and ideas about morality. This type of group poses the greatest threat of divisiveness and eventual polarization.

To help uncover some of these groupings ask yourself these questions:

  • Who talks to whom in meetings?
  • Which team members are continuously aligned?
  • Which team members constantly disagree?
  • Who chats together during meetings – virtual or in person?
  • Who turns off their camera when someone from another group is speaking?
  • Who engages in informal interactions such as coffee or jokes?

The answers to these questions can help give cues about whether subgroups exist and along what lines. In part two we will look at how leaders can prevent or diffuse entrenchment on teams.

 

Authors

Alyson Meister - IMD Professor

Alyson Meister

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD

Alyson Meister is a Professor specializing in the development of globally-oriented, adaptive and inclusive organizations, she has worked with thousands of executives, teams, and organizations spanning professional services through to industrial goods and technology. She was recognized as a Thinkers50 Radar thought leader in 2021.

Related

Learn Brain Circuits

Join us for daily exercises focusing on issues from team building to developing an actionable sustainability plan to personal development. Go on. They only take five minutes.
 
Start learning

Explore Leadership

What makes a great leader? Do you need charisma? How do you inspire your team? Our experts offer actionable insights through first-person narratives, behind-the-scenes interviews and The Help Desk.
 
Gain insight

Join Membership

Log in here to join the conversation with the I by IMD community. Your subscription grants you access to the quarterly magazine plus daily articles, videos, podcasts and learning exercises.
 
Sign up to I by IMD

Welcome to I by IMD

Install
×

You have 4 of 5 articles left to read.