With the current emphasis on teams and team coaching everyone is highlighting the need to get cohesive teams that can work effectively together to deliver results. The picture this conjures up is of a group of happy people working pleasantly together, harmoniously.

Patrick Lencioni mentions the term artificial harmony in his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It brings attention to this very real issue. Many organisations are striving to find harmony and effective ways of working together, and they often mistake the lack of disagreements as the achievement of this objective.

“The absence of conflict is not harmony, it’s apathy. If you’re in a group where people never disagree, the only way that could really happen is if people don’t care enough to speak their minds.”

– Adam Grant


If you are working with DiversityEquity and Inclusion as fundamental principles for developing your organisation, you are inviting in many views, beliefs, and practices. These principles say that you want to build the most effective, high performing and high-value team. Understandably, there will be different opinions about the work, the workplace, and just about everything in it. People have different motivations and priorities. The pandemic has polarised a lot of views. Remote working versus in office is just a small example. What about leave, maternity and paternity, flexible working hours and expectations in terms of work-life balance?

When you recruit new staff members, you may be able to dictate the required behaviours and expectations. However, existing employees have contracts, and these cannot be changed without consultation and negotiation. Therefore, expecting compliance is likely to lead to disappointment! Total compliance is even more dangerous. That would suggest that the individuals have already disengaged and given up speaking because they are preparing to exit, as witnessed by the Great Resignation.

The Tuckman Model

Tuckman includes the stages of forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning as a natural progression. This model may confuse the thinking about ‘storming’ as a once-off stage in the team process. It has a place as the team finds their places and rhythm in the early stages. However, ongoing debate and discussion, sometimes with lots of emotion and enthusiasm, is necessary for team development and sharing. The energy it brings gives life to the team, and as long as it remains within the agreed behaviours, it can be seen as healthy.

Consider The Organisation As A Big Family

If you consider that the organisation is a system and community, rather like a big family, you will know that siblings can have very heated debates but still care for each other. The organisation needs to be the same. Positive discussion and difference need to be encouraged to get to the real issues. Then you can find common ground and build back up from there. Shared values are the bedrock of successful teams and organisations. They show an appreciation of what is shared and allow the space for the differences to be valued.

Do you know the difference between harmony and apathy? Do you have a plan to deal with it?

Let us help you. We work with people who work with people to build thriving cultures – they do not happen by accident.

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