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What to Do When Your Team is Hostile

You’re optimistic when you join a new organization. You’re excited about your new role and responsibilities. You’re curious about the company culture, your new team, colleagues, and managers. Your mind is running at full speed, anticipating challenges, and contemplating ideas and strategies to drive success.


However, sometimes your reality is far from positive, and you find yourself with a hostile team. This may be observed from day one or as the weeks progress. The root cause could be internal politics that were at play before you arrived, the past manager, or even the overall company culture. The glaring fact is that a hostile team can only result in your failure and inability to achieve success. What do you do? How do you handle it?


Recognize it early


Don’t be caught unaware. Emotional intelligence is important here. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate your emotions and the emotions of others. You need to perceive the emotions of people around you accurately using nonverbal signs, while also understanding the emotions and the cause.


According to a Harvard Business School article, social awareness is one of the four components of emotional intelligence. You need to know how to read a room, recognize the emotions of others, and recognize the dynamics in play within your organization.


Realize that you can’t be successful without the team 


While we do come in with the needed skills or expertise to take the organization to the next level or achieve set goals, we cannot do this without the support of the team members. They have historical information that is crucial for the success of strategies or ideas. Their level of engagement will either hinder or accelerate your success. A poorly engaged team results in low productivity, high attrition rates, poor customer service, and poor sales numbers. Whereas a highly engaged team can lead to a 21% increase in profitability, 17% increase in performance, 20% increase in sales, and an 80% customer retention rate.


Partner with the leadership team 


More often than not, the hostility arises from the managers or leaders you inherited. You may experience resentment from those that coveted the position and either did not make the cut or were not given the opportunity. It’s important to quickly and clearly explain that you’re there to support their success and be their champion.


Spend one-on-one time with your managers to understand their goals and aspirations. 


Explain to them that you’re there to help them achieve their targets and push their career and professional growth. This may include liaising with the HR team to develop training and development courses or implement a mentorship program. You may approve a career/professional advancement course, or help them identify their strengths and define a growth pathway.


Connect with the team 


Have one-on-one chats with team members to build rapport and foster a good relationship. This also ensures communication is clear, with no room for rumors and exaggerations. By sharing who you are, what you believe in, your leadership style, and your strengths, you create authenticity.


By hearing from your team members about their goals, aspirations, motivation, and how they like to be led, you let them feel valued and create trust. This increases the level of employee engagement and productivity. According to Workfest, employees who know they are heard are more engaged and productive.


Address their concerns quickly 


A surefire way to win the hearts of your team members is to address their concerns. For issues like lack of clarity on company goals or direction, a town hall can be used to provide all the necessary information. For larger issues like remuneration or benefits, letting your team know that you’re reviewing and will get back to them goes a long way.


As leaders, we’re only as good as our teams. Our number one goal is to harness the strengths of our team members individually and collectively to achieve organizational goals and targets. When you find yourself with an antagonistic team, it is imperative to win their hearts to continue down the path to success.