Radical Teamwork

Nate Nelson
3 min readApr 14, 2022

The past few months of working solo as a freelance engineer, specializing in frontend development has given me a new appreciation of an old concept; radical teamwork. #radicalteamwork

Office meme dysfunctional work

Perhaps you found yourself in this situation. Your employer, group manager, faith leader or teacher places you in a group for study or a project. The situation is immediately awkward. Timidly one of you introduces themselves to the group, with a tepid smile and a nervous canter. The rest follow suit, each trying to navigate this hostile social experience with some witty banter, a small factoid about themselves, or their favorable experiences.

After this prescribed group introduction, someone suggests they discuss how to divvy up responsibilities. A pregnant pause follows, each silently begging for someone else to speak, until you grudgingly volunteer to take on a minor task. This continues until all the work is segmented out, and an ambiguous follow up date is dished out.

Soon the dysfunctional group dynamics unfold. You’ve seen it before. It’s a tale as old as time.

1. The Slacker

- For a myriad of reasons, this individual quickly disengages from the group. Perhaps they have no idea what they’re doing, or perhaps other stresses take hold in their lives, with ultimately procrastinating and going AWOL.

2. The Perfectionist

- Whether justified or not, the perfectionist cannot trust the other group members to complete their assigned task. They have a clear standard in their head, and they will overbear on the group, or brazenly work on other’s assignments according to their own vision.

3. The Peacemaker (Enabler)

- Trying to placate the other members, this individual will undertake a large section of the project, usually at the last minute. This large burden will wear them down until they break with some burnout. The primary task as they see it, is to finish the assignment, without making any uncomfortable social waves.

4. The Blunderer

- This individual confidently completes the task assigned, without any awareness of the complete shovel of bull$#*! they’ve made. Hardly anyone is willing to call them out on it, and a silent pact is made to redo their colleague’s …. refuse.

5. The Supervisor

- Like the adage goes, every project needs a supervisor. This individual feels right at home at making suggestions on other works but contributes little to none to the actual project. They often serve the role as police or mentor, but usually end up acting as the annoying freeloader.

As a result of the natural outcome of this dysfunctional group, the result is haphazard, poor, one-sided and stressful. No one likes their group members after that awful experience. And after they politely dodge an offer for drinks, they quietly slip into the beckoning call of social anonymity once again.

Clearly is not a productive work system. And today, it cannot work.

The pace of progress, as well as social awareness of one’s own happiness in the workplace means we cannot be cavalier with our assignments. And though we are born as social creatures, we must be taught how to be social in our work.

Various methodologies have sprung up and smart companies and project leaders have implemented them. Frameworks like agile, lean, and scrum all value group dynamics and provide strong support for positive professional dynamics. I encourage employers and employees alike to research methodologies that work best for their business or enterprise. Let’s stop blaming ourselves and others for poor group dynamics and strive to create real radical teamwork.