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Compatibilities in Teams

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Compatibilities in Teams

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Compatibilities in Teams

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Compatibilities in Teams

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Compatibilities in Teams

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Compatibilities in Teams

Working Effectively Together

Compatibilities in Teams

Building High Performance Teams

Compatibilities in Teams

Compatibilities in Teams

In organisations, improving areas such as output, problem-solving and effectiveness requires an understanding of how teams and relationships work. Unfortunately in many organisations there is a feeling that there isn’t time to deal with personal relationships. There are deadlines and goals to meet, bottom lines to achieve and they need to take priority.

The fact is, when we ignore interpersonal issues in favour of “dealing with more practical matters” because that’s what we need to do to get the job done we are engaging in organisational self-deception. When interpersonal problems exist and are not dealt with the productivity of the organisation inevitably suffers. It is more true to say that organisations cannot afford not to take the time to deal with relations between people.

The eminent psychologist Will Schutz demonstrated that there is actually a high correlation between the compatibility among team members and the team’s productivity. He called it the C-P effect.

There are two types of compatibility - Atmosphere Compatibility and Role Compatibility. Understanding these two types of compatibility helps us to understand the factors that contribute to or inhibit team efficiency. It is important to remember that the basic reason teams flounder is not because of the differences between team members, but rather the rigidity with which team members hold to their positions. It is an understanding of these rigidities that enables teams to overcome their preferences in terms of atmosphere and roles within the team.

Each of us has preferences for the way in which work is done. Beyond the procedures involved, we each want to have a generally an agreed upon way of interacting with our coworkers. For example, some people like to work together as a team, while others prefer time alone to gather their thoughts.

Note that these two styles do not affect what is being worked on or the method used to work on it; rather, they are patterns of personal interaction. There is no one preference that is inherently better than another, nor is any particular atmosphere good or bad; each one has advantages and disadvantages, and each may be more useful in certain situations. It is crucial to remember that people in the same work group often have different preferences. Knowing this helps not only to avoid potential problems but can also be used to advantage in delivering continuous improvement.

Atmosphere compatibility

We often prefer to work with other people who like the same type of work atmosphere or climate. The atmospheres that form the bases for team operations can be defined by Schutz’s three behavioural dimensions of Inclusion, Control and Openness.

Inclusion atmosphere is high when we have a great deal of contact, where we communicate, meet and interact frequently. Inclusion atmosphere is low when contact, meeting and communication are infrequent.

Inclusion atmosphere incompatibility occurs when some team members prefer a high amount interaction and others like working alone. Difficulty occurs when we try to solve problems and some people want to solve these through interaction, while others want to solve them through individual action. 

Control atmosphere is high when we adhere to a strict hierarchy and /or strict procedures. In this atmosphere, we follow clear and explicit lines of authority and have an expectation of giving and receiving direction. Control atmosphere is low when there is a high level of delegated authority, minimal hierarchy, and policies and procedures are flexible.

Control atmosphere incompatibility occurs when some team members prefer a high-control atmosphere (e.g., they want to plan everything ahead of time and follow the plan carefully) and others like a low-control atmosphere (e.g., decisions get made just in time in response to external needs).


Openness atmosphere is high when we are open about our thoughts and feelings. In this atmosphere, we seek and share the full range of responses we have to any task or relationship. Openness atmosphere is low when thoughts and feelings are withheld because they are seen as inappropriate, or when we adhere to traditional forms of being businesslike and objective.

Openness atmosphere incompatibility occurs when some team members prefer a high-openness atmosphere (e.g., they want the team to work through their feelings about the task or for each other) and others want to work only on the tasks at hand.

 Role Compatibility

 A second way to analyse compatibility on a team is to examine who prefers to initiate and who prefers to receive specific behaviours. This type of compatibility is called role compatibility. Where atmosphere compatibility refers to the overall climate in which we interact, role compatibility refers to the parts we play. While the theme for compatibility in atmosphere is “birds of a feather flock together,” the theme for role compatibility is “opposites attract.” Although this may seem contradictory, both are true. For specific pairs of people to be compatible their individual preferences for Inclusion, Control and Openness must align. For example, one person likes to include other people very much and another person wants very much to be included. They are compatible with their preferred roles.

 Role Incompatibility

Role incompatibility typically occurs in either a confrontative or apathetic form.

Confrontative incompatibility is usually the most obvious to see. People confront each other to a greater or lesser degree and it leads from subtle manoeuvring to power struggles, to open confrontation.

Apathetic incompatibility is often more difficult to identify. The clue is in the name, it’s most noticeable symptom is apathy: things do not happen when they should; team members “forget” to do things because they “thought someone would do it.”


Inclusion role compatibility means one person likes to initiate being together to the same degree that another likes to be invited. If one person likes to initiate and the other likes to respond then they get along well.

Inclusion confrontative incompatibility occurs when two people are both high on initiating inclusion and neither feels comfortable with the other’s attempts to include them.

Inclusion apathetic incompatibility occurs when both people hang back waiting for one to include the other.


Control role compatibility means that one of us likes to give directions to the same degree that another likes to receive. If one person likes to take charge and the other likes someone to give direction they are likely to get along well.

Control confrontative incompatibility occurs when two people both like to be in charge and neither likes to take direction. They are in a power struggle. The danger is that they may be so intent on winning or on being right that they will not appreciate each other’s position.

Control apathetic incompatibility happens when two people both want to be told what to do and neither is comfortable being in charge. A common example is a manager who has trouble giving directions and an employee with little initiative.


Openness role compatibility means one person likes to initiate openness to the same degree that another likes colleagues to be open.

Openness confrontative incompatibility occurs when two people both want to initiate openness but neither wants to listen.

Openness apathetic incompatibility occurs when two people both want a more open relationship with each other, but neither will risk starting it.

At a more fundamental level, the inability to resolve disagreements is actually due to rigidity, not differences of opinion. If one person rigidly holds to a particular atmosphere (e.g., high control) even when inappropriate, the team will have difficulties.


A team member may prefer a particular atmosphere or role because they find it useful and enjoyable. If the situation called for a different atmosphere or role they could be flexible and work comfortably in it as well. They simply prefer their own. 

Defensive Response.

On the other hand a team member may choose an atmosphere or role out of anxiety. They prefer a particular role or atmosphere because it is less threatening to them, (i.e., it allows them to avoid experiencing something they do not want). In this case they may be less willing to work in a different role or atmosphere and rigidly insist the team conform to their preferences.

Teams often become frustrated and ineffective not because of incompatibilities or differences between team members, but because of the rigidity with which they hold to their position.

Master Black Belts, Black Belts and and indeed any change agents responsible for leading teams can achieve dramatic improvements in performance by an understanding of these issues and measuring by them in their teams.


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