When Helping You is Hurting Me: How to Encourage Healthy Teamwork

Helping-you-hurting-meIn case you missed the news, Intertech was named a “Best Place to Work” by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. While this marks our ninth time on the list, I’m still as delighted as the first time we received the honor in 2004.

Unlike the many awards we’ve received for growth during the past 20 years – which also are greatly appreciated – the Best Places awards are extra special because they are based on the candid (and confidential) responses of our employees. While I never take the outcome for granted, our company has many practices in place to ensure that employees feel valued and have opportunities to do great work for great clients.

Intertech’s ACE program—recognizing our core values of Attitude, Commitment, and Excellence—has institutionalized the importance of noticing the contributions of colleagues and making sure those contributions are called out and appreciated. A recurring theme in our employee recognition program, which is based on employees nominating each other for ACE awards, is the importance of teamwork. Intertech consultants frequently go the extra mile to help each other meet a deadline or handle a particularly challenging assignment.

Helping each other is a cornerstone of Intertech’s culture. So I was particularly interested in a recent article in Harvard Business Review, “In the Company of Givers and Takers” by Adam Grant, which looks at the decisions employees make every day about whether to contribute to others—and their willingness to help other employees, which is “crucial to group and organizational effectiveness.”

Grant, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, has given a lot of thought to workplace generosity. He writes:

“In a competitive, often zero-sum, world, generosity can be a dangerous path. How can leaders foster it without cutting into productivity, undermining fairness and allowing employees to become doormats?”

His article shares some surprising answers to this question, which are based on a review of 38 studies of organizational behavior representing more than 3,500 businesses in a wide variety of industries. In my next three posts, I will pass along some insights highlighted in this intriguing article, as well as how Intertech encourages employees to help – without harming – each other.