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The 5 Habits That Kill Team Unity

Team unity isn't just nice to have in business: It's an undisputed keystone of success. When your team members work as a unified force, your whole operation benefits through higher productivity, thriving creativity, and unstoppable momentum. As Henry Ford put it, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” So what happens when coworkers don’t choose team unity? Chaos, power struggles and missed opportunities poison your culture—and ruin your business.  

If your organization is high in strife and low in unity, you can be sure it’s under attack from at least one of these five enemies of team unity:

  1. Poor communication
  2. Gossip
  3. Unresolved disagreements
  4. Lack of shared purpose
  5. Sanctioned incompetence

But here’s the good news: You can create and protect a culture of team unity in the workplace by making some intentional shifts. Let’s look at the five unity-killers in business so you can kick them to the curb and your business can thrive.

1. Poor Communication

Imagine your customer service team gets flooded with support tickets for a bad product but that info doesn’t make it to the sales team, so they keep promoting the dud with new clients. That sucks for everybody. Or maybe the mix-up is a new web page that positions you as an exclusive, high-end brand when your mission is all about providing value and affordability to customers. That’ll confuse your audience quicker than you can say crossed signals. How do mistakes like that happen? Because of poor communication in the workplace. Winning organizations have an open, trustworthy culture of communication.

How to Improve Communication in the Workplace

Unfortunately, only 7% of U.S. workers strongly agree that they get accurate, timely and open communication where they work.1 The only way to break down communication barriers is for you to get clear on your mission and vision. Then you need to share them with your team over and over (and over). But don’t forget—communication goes both ways. Your team needs a tool to provide regular feedback so you can tackle problems early.

  • Mission Statement
    Every company needs a mission statement. In just a few words, your mission statement tells the world and your team who you are, who you are not, and what you stand for. It’s also a great out-of-bounds marker. If an opportunity comes your way but it doesn’t fit into your mission statement, pass. And if a web design looks super fancy and impressive but misses your brand identity, go back to the drawing board.
  • Vision Statement
    Your vision statement is a picture of what the world would look like if your organization was 100% successful in fulfilling its purpose. A clear vision gives your team an even greater sense of purpose—they understand the big goals they’re working toward and can see how their role fits into those goals.
  • Your Story
    To keep your team members on the same page, also remind them regularly why you started your business and how you got to where you are today. Include your hardships, sacrifices and victories, as well as all the times you refused to quit. Sharing your story pulls the whole team together and reminds them that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
  • Weekly Reports
    When we say Weekly Reports, we’re not talking about spreadsheets, charts and outcomes. We’re talking about weekly check-ins on team member morale, workload, and both personal and professional highs and lows. This type of Weekly Report helps you and the people you lead build rapport, communicate better, and develop trust in one another. That level of communication and trust means you’ll know how your team is actually doing—maybe for the first time ever!

Get the Free Mission Statement Mapper

You don’t have to figure it out alone! Download the easy-to-follow EntreLeadership Mission Statement Mapper that will help you write a mission statement that gets you and your team fired up and on the same page.

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2. Gossip

When a team member discusses a work-related problem with anyone who can’t solve the problem, that’s gossip. And it can destroy team unity in a flash if you let it. Don’t buy the lie that it’s human nature for coworkers to talk about each other and complain. It’s not. Gossip in the workplace pushes people apart and makes trust impossible. You can’t let people pee in their cereal and complain it tastes bad. It’s up to the whole team to guard their words and protect your company culture. Here’s how you can eliminate gossip in the workplace with a zero-gossip policy.

How to Create a Zero-Gossip Policy at Your Company

  • Outline for your team exactly what gossip is. Remember, it’s saying something negative about anyone or anything to someone who can’t do anything about it.
  • Use new-hire onboarding meetings and regular staff meetings to reinforce your no-gossip policy. Tell your team members to take negatives up to leaders who can help them resolve their issues and share positives all around to inspire others.
  • Treat gossip in the workplace as a fireable offense. Every team member at Ramsey Solutions knows you’ll be warned about gossip once, but the next time, you’re gone. The truth is, you’ll rarely have to fire anyone over gossip. Most people are so relieved to work in a gossip-free zone that they’ll shut down gossip when they hear it. They’ll protect the culture as fiercely as you do!
  • Take a hard look in the mirror before you roll out your no-gossip policy. Are you guilty of talking negatively about someone to people who can’t do anything about it? As the leader of your company, your team watches everything you do, and they’ll naturally follow your example.

Related article: 10 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment (and How to Improve Your Workplace Culture)

3. Unresolved Disagreements

Unresolved disagreements are like toxic leaks in your business, silently polluting everything and leaving a trail of damage. You don’t want that. The sad thing is, a lot of leaders don’t even know there’s a conflict in the workplace to address—or they do know but turn a blind eye because they don’t like confrontation. You’ve got to recognize and deal with disagreements quickly and firmly.


Ready to be challenged, inspired and motivated by the world’s top business and thought leaders? Join us online for the EntreLeadership Summit livestream—you can even invite your team to watch with you.

Thankfully, once you improve communication and set a no-gossip policy, your team members are a lot more likely to trust you and bring issues forward to solve together. You might even see some new friendships born as you hash out problems together with integrity.

How to Deal With Conflict the Right Way

  • Treat conflict in the workplace like a splinter and pull it out right away—even if it hurts. Remind your team members that avoiding conflict causes greater pain and infection. Facing it early lets everyone involved move forward in unity.
  • When you do meet to address the conflict, course-correct and teach without losing your cool or talking down to others. No one should ever feel demoralized, embarrassed or shamed when you’re dealing with a disagreement. Team members at Ramsey Solutions aren’t required to be BFFs. But they are expected to talk things through respectfully.

4. Lack of Shared Purpose

Let’s think football for a second. What’s the goal of every team? To get the ball over the line and score a touchdown. And every team member—whether they’re the quarterback, running back, wide receiver or offensive lineman—knows the goal. It’s up to all the players on the field to move the ball down the field to score, even in a broken play. Do that enough times and you win. But when players stop driving to the end zone as a team, they’ll lose. Guaranteed.

What’s the lesson? Winning teams (on the field and in business) don’t go solo. Individual team members don’t run willy-nilly, doing their own thing. They stick together—and they know their role. It’s up to you to set a common direction, keep your team members focused, and hold them accountable to reaching your goals together.

How to Inspire Shared Purpose

  • Go back to the first point on team communication and identify a shared mission and vision for your business. Then share—or reshare—them so much you get tired of hearing yourself talk about them. That’s a sign you’re driving them home. Keep it up!
  • Create Key Results Areas (KRAs) to spell out the specific results every team member is responsible for and how their role fits with your company’s success. Use KRAs regularly to make sure everyone’s moving in the same direction to grow themselves and your business.
  • Recast your vision and mission even more as your company grows. It might sound repetitive to the old-timers, but it’s brand new to a lot of people.

Dave and Daniel Ramsey talk about Ramsey Solutions’ mission, vision, values and goals every few months during staff meeting. They sometimes ask for a show of hands of team members who’ve been with the company less than a year. This reminds veteran team members why it’s important to revisit those messages so often.

“Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” —John F. Kennedy

5. Sanctioned Incompetence

Sanctioned incompetence is a fancy way of describing when a leader intentionally overlooks a team member’s consistently bad work ethic or bad attitude. It’s having rules and expectations but not holding everyone to them. And it’s a disaster in the making.

Say your business hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but your top sales guy, Johnny, strolls in every day around 9 a.m. Even though he’s hitting or exceeding his sales goal, Johnny completely disregards your company standard of an 8 a.m. start time.

Meanwhile, the rest of your team members who are faithfully ready to work on time feel demoralized and resentful. The next thing you know, they’re talking about Johnny’s entitled attitude—and your double standard. Before long, you’ve got a whole team of people either showing up and leaving when they feel like it or quiet quitting because you’ve sent a message that hard work and personal integrity are optional.

Sanctioned incompetence can’t continue. But dealing with it requires clear communication and accountability. Here’s how you and your team member can walk through the process with dignity and integrity.

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

The decision to let someone go should never be easy or made in anger. In most cases, it’ll be your last resort. So before dismissing a team member, get clear on why they’re not getting the job done.

  • Is it a leadership failure? Do you need to confront some poor expectations and fix some communication errors?
  • Is it connected to a personal problem in the team member’s life? If it is, have you offered additional help, like counseling or a set amount of time off to deal with the issue?
  • Is the failure caused by incompetence? In other words, are they struggling because they lack the skills or motivation to do the work at the expected level?

In most cases, you can fix the problem once you get to the root of it and have an honest, direct conversation with the team member. If you do need to fire someone, it shouldn’t be a surprise to them. It should come after a handful of conversations where you’ve told them clearly that they’re not meeting the expectations for their role—as well as an opportunity for them to meet those expectations if they choose to. But there’s one exception to this rule: If you catch someone stealing, let them go that day.

Now that you know the killers of team unity, it’s up to you to go to battle early and keep the enemies out—and to usher in a healthy company culture. When you do, you’ll keep the wrong people out, attract more high-performers, and you and your team will have a lot more fun doing work that matters!


What’s Next: Map Your Mission

Unity in the workplace starts with getting clear on your mission, or purpose. Then you can help your team members know where you’re heading and see the importance of their work. Check out the step-by-step EntreLeadership Mission Statement Mapper.

Get Your Free Worksheet

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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