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Brijendra Dharampuria

The mentioned points are good and necessary as well. But all employees will follow these norms is not required. So, in this situation there should be mentioned its alternative if someone violate it.


When I read this post I recognized these words immediately. I worked for this person for six years before he went to "big company".

He the best team leader/manager I have ever seen in a 20+ year career.


Some very interesting comments. I don't think that by listing the norms of what he would like his company to follow means that the company is subpar. Sometimes it just needs to be stated in writing. Of course these are all standard behaviors but a lot of times people get so busy and wrapped up in themselves and their work they forget how to be 'human'. Just a simple reminder of how to interact with co-workers.

Second, I LOVE that he mentioned 'have fun'. Too many people forget that work should be fun. Growing up my dad always told me to "work hard, play hard and have fun". I have never forgotten that and I think people today do not have enough fun in their life. So to be prompted to by your boss is a good thing.

Ben C

Telling people to "have fun" seems like a sure sign the company is a complete drudge.

Maria Payroll

Excellent article. You have made a lot of good points and thank you for sharing them You also gave very good tips and advice. If you were offered a high position, you should be able to know if you could surpass the challenges that this position would give you. As a boss/manager, you should be as transparent as you can be without getting your guards down or giving away too much about you. This transparency would give your employees the impression that they can count on you for help. You should also keep your words, so that it would not ruin your credibility.


Esther is totally right.

No input = no commitment.

Progressive bosses should not just pass down rules. Teams should have their own say (as well as the boss) about how they should be with each other, clients, work behaviors etc.

The guidelines would probably be even better if the team worked on them.

Thanks, E.


It's good that the principles like described in this "team norm" list are considered important enough to be written down.
On the other hand, I always get suspicious when things that essentially mean "don't stab each others backs" and "be nice to each other" need to be spelled out like that. They should be self-explanatory. If it is necessary that they are spelled out and distributed by management, then something is wrong. It seems like management does not feel that people can be trusted to act like decent human beings. So when I see things like this, I wonder for example if the management is simply projecting their own faults into the team. The other thing that I wonder about is if management might just not want to be bothered with helping out if things do get tough, such "guidelines" always seem a bit like a carte blanche that management has fulfilled their responsibility. I think managers with personal integrity, that truly want to promote the values described in this list, simply do not need to spell out lists like that (or, as is done in my company, force and virtually bully employees into doing mandatory ethics and diversity trainings!). Managers should, as stated in previous posts, lead by example, and they should give their team members the genuine feeling that they can be trusted and will react with empathy if addressed with problems.

Curtis Johnson Realty

This is a good list to follow. I must say that being a boos often can be very stressful but one must have the time to relax. I am grateful to have read this post. Working long hours of the day will make us unproductive if can't cope up with the schedules. I may say that this is a huge and handy tip.


A number of the other comments have addressed the primary points I want to make, so I won't just rehash them. What I will say is that recoil at any remarks from management (and I am in management) regarding fun or celebration. Fun should be organic and a natural outcome of a positive work environment, so stating it as a norm seems to just take the air out of it, at least for me. Going to happy hour with some coworkers, playing a prank on a friend in the office, having a hilarious conversation in the hallway - all wonderful moments in one's work life. But, when your boss or the company at large attempts to create this by stating that everyone should have just seems forced, artificial, and does not achieve the intended results.

No need to talk about celebration or fun...just do the important things and the culture will develop in a way that fosters natural conviviality.


Perhaps this boss should merely make these his own personal principles, and not explicitly demand them of others. Lead by example.

The first norm should not be made explicit because it is not a company or team norm but a universal principle. Are there organizations or groups where we should *not* show respect? No, of course not.

If someone does blindside someone else, then, he should take them aside and tell them simply to show respect. It's not how things are done "around here", but simply how they are done. (That said, it can be a good personal principle because we too often forget it.)

Punctuality is even clearer here. Why would any organization make explicit (as a "team norm") that people should come to meetings at the times when the meetings are to be held? Here the boss should simply resolve to *start* the meetings on time, even if some people have not showed up. Those who come late, should be taken aside. The lateness should be noted, and, if possible, explained (sometimes there are good reasons). A pattern of lateness cannot be accepted, and the boss would eventually have to fire or marginalize (leave out of some important loop) an employee that consistently came late for things.

I would also advise against a norm of "if you're running late, call". 20 years ago, when phones were relevatively impractical, that would be fine because you would, necessarily (because you would have to find a phone and call another one with a person sitting at it), call early enough for it to make a difference. Today, because everyone's got a phone on them, they call two minutes before the meeting is to start (or two minutes after it has started), knowing full well that they are calling someone who is sitting in the meeting room waiting for them. The ability to do this, i.e., to "show respect" by being *virtually* "on time" but not really "there" is a moral hazard.

Fincally, transparency is not something to demand of others but it will be returned if you demand it of yourself. If you don't have hidden agendas, people won't keep their agendas from you. If there are some things you need to hide (and there may well be), you should expect others to hide things from you. Again, this is obviously an age-old principle of ethics.

Finally, I agree with Brett (and others) that you can't make "be positive" a general norm for everyone. Some people just don't have a sunny disposition, but are essential members of your team. But here, again, you *can* personally resolve to remain positive.


I think Bret brings up an excellent point. You do want to be positive but you need an environment where ideas are critiqued.

People have focused primarily on ensuring that the leadership exemplifies the norms rather then just stating them. That is necessary but insufficient. What is needed is accountability to the norms, ideally accountability from the entire team not just from the top down.

My suggestion would be to create an egalitarian environment where constructive criticism is highly valued. This includes valuing critiques of the bosses ideas and behavior. When people feel it is safe to engage in health discourse most of these state norms will naturally evolve.

You can't decide on a workplace culture, it is an emergent property of the values that management demonstrates. I usually take the approach of rewarding those who are willing to challenge me and others on my team in a constructive and professional manner. Even if I disagree with the person's ideas or opinions I still appreciate the fact that they have raised them. If nothing else, such challenges ensure I have considered everything that I should. So far this approach has been very successful at building a positive culture in teams based in the US.

Ron Stone

Bob...I agree with the earlier posters that the team needs to develop the social contract it intends to follow. Often times teams develop a "list" of norms but fail to discuss how these norms are manifested in the team environment. In other words, what do these norms look like. This is an important dimension of developing any team charter. I would also encourage teams to give some serious thought to conflict issues and how they will be addressed to include how the team will handle violations of the team norms.

I have used team norms many times. Here are a few points that I think are critical to make them a successful tool:
- you develop them together with the whole group that needs to stick to them. This way you can make sure that everybody has the same understanding of what the norms mean
- as the leader you have to stick to them just like everybody else

Now to the crucial question: how do you enforce them:
- payment of 1$ for every minute late to a meeting worked quite well.
- when I violated a rule as the leader and am aware of it I make it public (e.g. call it out as a "meets some" or area for improvement in my performance self assessment)
- In order to encourage others to adopt the rules I offline will call on the more senior leaders of the team to call me out when i am not getting straight to the point or am not prepared for a meeting.
- lastly: I do incorporate the adherence to the team norms in to the performance goals and will formally provide a rating and feedback to employees.

Bob, you referenced David Kelly - I would love to hear some examples from you of how he encourages others to follow the norms in a positive way.


As noted above this list or one's like it are present all over the corporate world, as wall/desk decoration. They are posted and forgotten.

I think you are correct that addressing transgressions are critical, but first is to move them from the wall into the conversation.

The manager runs the risk of sounding like a zealot, but on some level indoctrination must occur for new norms to be assimilated. The key is that the manager creates an opening for a new conversation/mental framing.

To other's points that a top down norms edict is weird/crappy...this is an opportunity for the manager to translate a corporate edict into an opening for the team. By taking the crap off the wall and creating an opening (what does this make available for us) the manager and others have space to address transgressions against a backdrop of a designed future rather than policing rules.

At the same time it goes a very long way for the manager to disclose where they have failed to adhere to these norms with outside stake holders. (I lost it in a meeting with sales, and in so doing dented our groups credibility, which is key for us to be seen as the go to business partner. While the point was valid I didn't show them respect them as business partners, and the message was lost. This is how I am addressing that.)

Display of accountability regarding the impact for the conversation you are perpetuating is key, not just acknowledgement of a transgression.

Julie McManus

Bob, I think agree with your comments and think items like these are posted every single day in corporations throughout the world. Would it be better not to post anything or to have some positive goals to shoot for? It seems to me the person posting these was trying to set a tone and create some positive outcomes. Thoughts?

Esther Derby

Hmmm. I have different questions.

How can these be team norms if they are have been articulated by the boss?

How respectful is it for the boss to make the rules for how other adults should behave?

In my experience, it's more effective (and respectful) to engage the group in articulating for themselves the simple rules that will help achieve a pattern of interaction that supports the work they need to do.

Bret Simmons

I know many will disagree, but stressing "stay positive" always raises a red flag with me. I think it discourages critical thinking and talk. If you are a "noisy complainer" you are seen as negative. Sacred cows have to be slain and I think that happens less in cultures with an overemphasis on the positive. Thanks, Bob.


One of the Core Values at my company is headlined "Initiative and Responsibility" and is expanded by this simple statement: "We will do what we say we're going to do, when we say we are going to do it."

For the most part, we practice what we preach. You have to admit, it's easy to understand, and, easy to validate.

Mackenzie Heys

Hi Bob,
Interesting you should write on this, I wrote about this very topic in my leadership blog last night titled "Practice What You Preach". I think your point regarding hypocrisy is right on. In this case, the boss needs to consistently exemplify the "team norms" he articulates. And, he needs to be as accountable as the rest of the "team". In terms of repercussions based on violations, I think there needs to be a clarification between the occasional human screw up and blatant disregard. Thanks for the post!


Interesting question. One thing I can think of is (informal) training. Depending on the team, it could be helpful to discuss these expectations.

- what does it mean to celebrate successes? (do we eat cake and donuts, do we send out a tweet or...?)
- what does transparency mean? (will peers start 'checking in' on my work?)
- discuss respect - what can go wrong? Identify gray areas...

My great uncle in-law used to supervise a chicken plant. His advice: Always check for understanding, ask employees to put guidelines into their own words. They'll be less likely to violate a rule if they own it.

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