Practical techniques to improve a negative team atmosphere

Someone told me the following: “The atmosphere in our team is bad and we have already tried several things to improve the atmosphere. We held a meeting to discuss the problem, but it only led to the atmosphere becoming even worse. We organized a dinner but half the team didn't even show up. What must we do?" The question is legitimate because a negative team atmosphere can negatively affect both job satisfaction and the performance of a team. Here are some ideas to turn around a negative team atmosphere.

Research: how do you reverse a negative team atmosphere?

An interesting study that sheds light on this issue is the study by De Jong et al. (2014). They investigated three strategies to tackle this:

  • communication density (frequent communication within the team),
  • exchange between team members (mutual support and feedback),
  • task interdependence (cooperation and dependence in task performance).

The study found that the strategies of exchange between team members and task interdependence were effective in reducing negative relationships within the team, while communication density did not contribute to this improvement. The researchers concluded that mutual aid, feedback and task interdependence can help limit the negative effects of poor team relationships.

How do you stimulate exchange and task interdependence?

After reading this study's findings on reducing a negative team atmosphere, you may wonder how you can put these insights into practice. Although strategies such as exchange between team members and task interdependence are effective, their application in daily practice can be challenging. Teams and leaders should consider how to create a culture of support and collaboration and how to translate these principles into concrete actions that fit their own team dynamics.

Three useful techniques

The following three progression-oriented techniques may be helpful:

  1. Circle technique: This technique is aimed at making visible the progress already achieved and identifying future goals.
  2. Reciprocity Ring: In this approach, each team member formulates a request to the group, and the other members use their knowledge, resources, and connections to help fulfill this request.
  3. Appreciation Wall: This is an exercise where team members write appreciation for their colleagues on post-its and stick them on a wall. A supervisor then reads it aloud and leads a discussion about the content.

How these techniques help

The matrix below shows how these techniques can help strengthen exchanges between team members and promote task interdependence within the team.

Techniques Strengthening exchange between team membersFostering task interdependence
Circle technique Promotes positive interactions and joint discussion of achieved and further desired progressEncourages shared goals and collaboration for future improvements
Encourages the sharing of information, knowledge and resources, creates a supportive environmentCreates mutual dependency through joint problem-solving and assistance
Appreciation wall Allows team members to express appreciation for each other's behavior, reduces negativityFocuses on appreciation of behaviors that contribute to team goals, supports collaborative effortConclusion

The integration of these progression-oriented tools within teams can have a positive impact on improving the team atmosphere and strengthening team relationships. The techniques help to practically apply the insights of De Jong et al.