Why Do Teams Outperform Groups in the Workplace?

Imagine for a minute that you’re sitting in an MBA class; your professor has just assigned you a group project with four strangers. Each group member will be scored individually, based on the quality of his or her contribution, rather than on the project as a whole.

In this scenario, what are the chances that you’ll help the rest of your group with their sections? You might be willing to sacrifice your time to make sure the entire project is the best that it can be — but more likely, you’re going to finish your piece and leave the rest of the group to fend for themselves.

You may be part of a group, but you’re not on a team.

Critical Differences Between Groups and Teams

Groups come together, but they don’t work together — at least, not for long. In groups, projects fall prey to politics and competing interests; people fight for scarce resources and chase success based on individual performance.

Teams, on the other hand, are built on trust and common direction. Teammates support one another and give each other the benefit of the doubt in times of conflict.

Teams outperform groups every time.

So how do you know if you and your peers are functioning as a group or a team? Consider these four fundamental qualities; a group might have some of them, but a team has them all.

Shared Purpose

Teams know why they exist — they’re united by a common purpose.

When teammates have clarity on how their roles fit into the team’s greater purpose, they want to pull together to see that purpose fulfilled.

Teammates recognize that each person is essential to the organization’s purpose, so they respect one another’s roles and look for ways to help each other achieve the purpose they’re all striving toward.

Shared Goals

A team’s performance is typically judged on both individual and collective work. In a group, each individual is judged by his or her performance results — so it’s no surprise that group members tend to focus on their own goals rather than the goals of the organization.

At work, group members are more likely to withhold knowledge and resources from other departments or groups, forming organizational silos and hindering overall progress.

Teams, on the other hand, see their goals and the organization’s goals as one in the same. As a result, they’re more willing to pick up the slack for one another so that they can achieve these shared goals.

Peer-to-Peer Accountability

Because everyone on a team is working toward shared goals and a shared purpose, teammates aren’t afraid to call each other out if they notice one person is sabotaging their progress.

A healthy level of communication and conflict allows teams to avoid the pitfalls of office politics. Teammates can count on their peers to hold them accountable to fulfilling their unique roles and building up the organization.

Genuine Connection and Care

Teams do more than work together — they invest in deepening their connections. They make time to get to know each other and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses so that they can bring out the best in one another.

While groups can fall apart in times of stress or conflict, teammates trust that they have each other’s back.

Teams are in it together, and they know it.


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