In organizations (even in business ones) it is normal for subgroups to form, this can become a problem when these subgroups begin to build trenches that separate them from the rest of their colleagues.
Entrenchment occurs when certain shared beliefs, values and behaviors “overlap” with the individuality of people, who exchange what they believe in what they are.
Entrenchment is usually based on perceptions, which divide people.
How to locate the entrenchment.
– Spatial presence: the members of a team share common places and spaces that increase their interaction
–Surface-level characteristics: age, language, religion, gender are superficial factors but which contribute to creating subgroups based on familiarity characteristics
–Knowledge basis: people with similar background and education will tend to unite due to the same communication style and mindset
–Deep-level identities: values, ideas, beliefs are factors that often risk dividing, also because they are deep thoughts that are the basis of the interactions of individuals with the rest of the world.
How to discourage entrenchment
Leaders of work organizations can use tactics and strategies to avoid entrenchment of subgroups and foster collaboration between various staff members.
-Shake things up: if space and fixed roles are entrenchment factors, creating “jolts” every now and then can be a good idea (for example job rotation, or change workstation locations or maybe create a team with members from very different backgrounds between them).
-Focus on shared goals and shared adversaries:
Many sub-groups do not realize that working in the same organization they often have the same goal, and the same “adversaries” or problems. For example, a goal that involves the collaboration of members of several sub-groups can lead to breaking down imaginary boundaries.
-Spend time together: spending time together formal and informal can lead people to come closer and to discover that they have more in common than what divides them.
-Engage bridge builders: there are people who can interact with different groups, and can unite people, if you have them in the staff, identify them, they can be fundamental.
-Experiments with identity play and paradox mindset: The vision of the other is crucial and is often what individuals lack, if you can compare the visions of two different people.
The division of individuals into subgroups can be natural but it is often negative because it does not produce collaboration and strongly limits the potential of the individuals themselves, trivially it is always better to build bridges rather than burn them.
If you want to learn more about this complex topic, we recommend reading the HBR article.