Teamwork, is it really the dreamwork?

By Matthew Newnham, Birketts.

As employment lawyers, we regularly advise on workplace situations where a team has ceased to operate effectively and, occasionally, become dysfunctional.

Published in UK Director Magazines Spring 24

Matthew Newnham,

A clash of personalities, performance issues, bullying or harassment, sickness absence and, of course, defending the resulting tribunal claims, are all in a standard day’s work at Birketts.

What Can Be Done?

Much can be done by employers to reduce the risk of claims being brought against their organisation, or at least prepare to successfully defend them. Robust internal policies and procedures, consistently applied from an early stage, can go a long way to reduce risk.

What is often under-appreciated is the value of encouraging positive interactions within teams. This helps with improving morale and productivity, retaining talent and reducing staff turnover whilst increasing profits. Ultimately, it’s good for business.

According to recent research*, 82% of employees reported that feeling happy and engaged at work is key to their productivity, and 43% of managers said keeping their team motivated is their top productivity challenge.  

Here are some things to consider if you want to foster a good working environment.

Understanding Roles and Responsibilities

Ensuring that each team member has a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities is crucial. It is important to pay close attention to job descriptions when recruiting and managers should regularly revisit and adjust roles as needed to accommodate changing requirements.


Open and effective communication help to flag up issues at an early stage and avoid escalation. Instilling a culture where feedback is constructive and aimed at finding solutions, rather than assigning blame, means employees are more likely to admit mistakes and address them. If managers are properly equipped to hold difficult conversations, problems can be nipped in the bud.

Line Management

Those who perform well at their job don’t always make the best managers. Line management skills do not come naturally to everyone, so appointing the right person and providing guidance is crucial. Offering training in effective communication, interpersonal skills and leadership techniques will go a long way to preventing disharmony.

Friends at Work?

Recent data from Gallup** suggests that having close friendships at work has become increasingly important since the pandemic and is a key factor in employee engagement. Managers have an important role in promoting an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. ‘Team building’ strategies can take many forms and managers must be careful to promote an inclusive culture that enhances productivity and satisfaction at work, rather than a divisive environment in which ‘banter’ and harassment are tolerated (or even encouraged).



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Get in Touch

Matthew Newnham is a Partner in the Employment team at Birketts  
T: 01603 756479
Or visit

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