Why doesn’t your team want to talk about problems?

In any dynamic organization, encountering challenges and adversity is normal and inevitable. But if you notice that your team is reluctant to engage in conversations about these difficult topics, this is a worrying sign. What are the most common reasons by which your team avoids talking openly about problems? Let's take a look at them.


Fear of consequences

One of the most common reasons why team members may hesitate to talk about problems is fear of negative consequences. They may fear criticism, reprimand or serious business consequences. At one of our clients, we heard about a "witch hunt." It manifested itself in the fact that after noticing mistakes or problems, managers first looked for the guilty parties, and of course, it was best if it was someone not from their team. Only after that, did they set about finding solutions.
To overcome this fear, the key is to build a work environment in which team members feel safe to express their opinions. It is worth reassuring your employees that talking about problems is an opportunity to learn and improve the whole team.

Lack of trust and open communication

Trust is the foundation for effective communication and problem-solving. When team members do not trust their leaders or each other, they are less likely to talk about issues they perceive as risky or controversial. Additionally, if employees don't feel that their opinions and insights are important and taken into account, they may avoid sharing difficulties. Building trust requires leaders to be transparent, consistent, and supportive. Regular communication exercises and open discussions can help build trust among team members.

Concern about conflict

Fear of conflict is another reason why employees avoid talking about problems. Imagine a situation in which one employee has serious reservations about the way his colleague works. However, he fears that expressing these objections could lead to spoiling the atmosphere and conflicts at work, so he prefers to keep quiet about the matter. And how does this usually end? The atmosphere spoils anyway, frustrations grow, and eventually, the team stops talking to each other at all, and cooperation becomes impossible. Avoiding conflict can lead to serious problems for the team, which will be more difficult to solve than talking about them openly. That's why it's worth promoting a culture of openness, in which constructive conflict is seen as an opportunity for growth.

Lack of proper tools and skills

Some teams may avoid talking about problems because they simply don't know how to start such a conversation or guide it to completion. This is often due to the different personalities and communication styles of team members - some may be extroverted by nature and openly express their concerns, while others are introverts who find it more difficult to start an uncomfortable conversation. The aforementioned differences are not a hindrance, but an opportunity for richer discussions. It is important to provide employees with the tools and skills to easily raise and resolve issues.

No commitment

Team members may also be reluctant to discuss problems if they feel uninvolved or disconnected from their work. According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report, only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. A lack of engagement can lead to a lack of motivation and an unwillingness to solve problems. To counteract this, managers should focus on creating a positive work environment, providing opportunities for growth and development, and encouraging active participation in the life of the organization.

Solutions – what can you do for your team as a leader?

  1. Understand that conflicts are natural: First of all, it is worth conveying to your team that conflicts are an inevitable part of cooperation. People need to understand that not all conflicts have to carry negative consequences. They can often lead to a better understanding of differing points of view and innovative solutions.
  2. A culture of open communication: It is worth investing in building a work culture in which every employee feels comfortable sharing their concerns and problems. Promoting respect, empathy, acceptance of diversity of opinion, and a leader admitting his or her mistakes can significantly improve openness to conversations, including difficult ones.
  3. Communication training: Providing training in communication, conflict resolution, and assertiveness can help employees have more effective conversations about problems. Sometimes even one acquired technique, consistently applied daily, has a positive impact on the functioning of the entire team.
  4. Providing support: Team leaders should lead by example in terms of open communication and active listening. Support from management is essential to create a climate of trust. A leader should not only listen but also actively help solve problems. This can include providing support in finding solutions, giving specific advice, or mobilizing the team to work together. Leaders can also help prioritize and determine what steps are necessary to solve a problem.
  5. Establish procedures for resolving problems: Implementing clear procedures and tools for reporting and resolving problems can significantly help counteract chaos and disorganization. These can include regular team feedback sessions, 1:1 meetings, or team well-being surveys. Regardless of the form chosen, the most important thing is that problems are reported promptly so that they can be responded to on time.

Talking openly about problems is a hallmark of a mature and strong team. To create a safe space to talk and raise any concerns, it is necessary to eliminate the root causes by which teams are reluctant to open up to dialogue about difficulties. By fostering a culture of psychological safety, building trust, addressing lack of commitment, and giving communication skills to employees, you can create a team that is not only willing but even eager to discuss and solve problems together.

Active Strategy Sp. z o.o.

ul. Kolista 14/22

54-152 Wrocław

NIP: 8943065098

KRS: 0000570503

REGON: 362233488