How one inner critic can damage the whole team

The essence of working in a team is that everybody works together towards the same objective. That’s why we like being part of a team, it gives us a sense of belonging and purpose. But what happens when an inner critic shows up?

Mark had always prided himself on his ability to design and implement new ideas, until his manager had totally dissed his proposal at the last team meeting. He now questioned his performance and when he did come up with new ideas, he quickly abandoned them before someone else could criticise them. He loved being innovative but after what happened last time, all he could see were the flaws in every one of his new ideas. His inner critic told him his ideas weren’t up to scratch and he felt he had lost his way. He became unwilling to share any of his more creative ideas with the team, sticking only to ideas that had worked in the past.

Our brain likes to feel safe and certain; we like to know that we are valued and respected when we work with others – that feeling helps us collaborate well. But when self-doubt shows up, the whole dynamic can change. 

How does this impact a team?

When a team member falls prey to their inner critic, they behave differently and that impacts how they interact with others, perhaps creating discord and ultimately a hostile working environment. Here are some ways this shows up:

  • Emotions are contagious and our fear can ‘infect’ others in the team, who might also succumb to their inner critics, or, instead, become frustrated and critical.
  • We can become desperate to not repeat a bad experience and therefore focus on people pleasing as opposed to actively contributing new ideas.
  • We could pre-empt a negative response from someone by silencing them before they have a chance to criticise. But silencing someone like that will chip away at the team’s psychological safety and everyone’s ability to speak up and contribute.
  • Creative ideas can be lost because we are afraid they won’t be received well.

The consequences for a team, and ultimately the organisation, can be devastating.

So, what can we do?

A team leader or even other team members can help colleagues move beyond their inner critics. You could do this by:

  • Identifying the presence of an inner critic in a compassionate and caring way. Once identified, it is easier to challenge it and to invite the person into a more affirming belief.
  • Drawing attention to the achievements of the team member and focusing on all the things that they are doing well.
  • Creating a place of psychological safety where innovative ideas and thoughts are welcomed and criticism of ideas (not people) are also welcomed.
  • Talk together about how ideas should be presented and how criticism of those ideas should happen.

The benefits in addressing the presence of inner critics in teams include creating an enjoyable and safe working environment where productivity and creativity thrive.  It motivates members to deliver results.

Rewired to Relate – Improve team collaboration

Rewired to Relate - Improve team collaboration

Rewired to Relate uses a pragmatic approach to develop participants’ emotional intelligence.

Team members who engage in this programme together will understand each other better, increase trust and find productive ways of working together.

more info