What would you do to turn around a team in which individual team members are deliberately trying to undermine each other? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Sarah Smith, VP-Advertising Sales & Operations at Quora, on Quora:

Ideally, a team would never get to this state but if I found this was happening, I would take the following steps:

  1. Make sure there is a clear vision and strategy for what the team needs to accomplish. If there is confusion, then team members are more prone to being focused on the wrong things.
  2. Discuss the strategy publicly with the whole team and ask for clarifying questions, concerns, and root out any confusion or disagreement. Be clear that debate is fine and encouraged but that at some reasonable time period (likely within a few days), everyone needs to come to an agreement on the plan and after that, everyone has to "get on the bus".
  3. Follow-up in 1:1s with each team member. Take a full hour at least to have each person talk through their role in achieving the goal. Are they clear on their next steps? Do they have the support they need? What blockers are they worried about?
  4. Request everyone delivers feedback directly to each other... no talking behind others' backs. If you have people on the team complaining about each other, your first response should be, "Have you talked to this person directly about this? If so, how did that go? If not, why not?" Do not spend time listening to people complain about each other. If this is happening too much, get them all in a room to hash it out publicly and make it clear that talking behind people's backs is not constructive, inefficient, disrespectful, and frankly immature. At worst, it is hurtful.
  5. Don't be afraid to fire toxic team members. If, after you've taken these steps, you find people are still undermining others, call them out and let them know that their time on the team and at the company will come to an end if they don't cut it out. Make it clear there will be no more warnings. It's important to let toxic people go so that the good people on the team can thrive. This can be hard when you are small but it's incredibly important. It's critical you lead your team by setting a strong example that undermining each other is not an acceptable way to act in a team.

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