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Team Ground Rules to Reduce Drama and Up Accountability

Would you like to have less drama and more accountability on your team? This strategy can help!

Team Ground Rules

These are guidelines that establish how a team interacts. Team members are involved in creating the ground rules and can then call out other team members if they aren’t adhering to what was agreed upon. These guidelines can also help reduce drama as team members agree on how they will treat one another, resulting in less unproductive conflict.


How to Establish Them

To establish Team Ground Rules, hold a team meeting and work through the following steps. You might also want to consider an outside facilitator.


1. Bad team experience exercise

  • Ask each team member to think about the worst team they have served on – at work or outside of work – and spend two to three minutes writing down what made that experience so bad.

  • Share experiences within the group.

2. Best team experience exercise

  • Ask each team member to think about the best team they have served on – at work or outside of work – and spend two to three minutes writing down what made that experience so positive.

  • Share experiences within the group.

3. Bad/best team experience discussion

  • With these comments in mind, discuss as a group what creates a good team experience and what makes for a bad one.

4. Team behaviors/norms exercise

  • Ask team members to suggest behaviors and norms that would contribute to the current team’s success. Record the suggestions on a flip chart or whiteboard.

5. Decide on Ground Rules

  • Discuss the suggestions as a group and decide which ones the team can support and adhere to.

6. Accountability

  • Discuss how to respond to a team member who doesn’t follow the ground rules. What will be the procedure for dealing with this when it happens?

7. Document the Ground Rules

  • Document and make the Team Ground Rules easily accessible to all team members. Consider having them available electronically and/or posting it in the regular meeting room.

What Doesn’t Work

  • It isn't effective if the leader establishes the ground rules and tells employees to abide by them. When employees are involved, it creates buy-in and ownership.

  • Creating the Team Ground Rules and then not reinforcing them on a regular basis.

3 Steps to Success

  1. Create the Team Ground Rules using the process above.

  2. Ensure that they are readily available for employees to access by posting in common areas, putting on shared drives, etc.

  3. Talk about the Ground Rules regularly and periodically ask team members to rate how things are going with each item on a scale of one to five. Then agree on steps to improve where needed.

Team Ground Rule Examples

Below are some examples of the types of items that might be included as part of a team’s ground rules.

  • Treat everyone with respect.

  • If you have an issue with someone, address it directly with the other person within 24 hours.

  • Be honest and transparent when discussing work-related topics.

  • Listen actively and be mindful of others’ opinions.

  • Never conduct a meeting with more than 16 people.

  • Always be prepared when attending meetings or giving presentations.

  • Keep an open mind when negotiating deals or confronting conflict.

  • Don’t gossip.

  • Assume positive intent on the part of other team members.

  • Use mistakes as learning opportunities.

  • During meetings, speak one person at a time.

  • Be personally accountable for following these Team Ground Rules and hold others accountable by saying something to them when they aren’t following them.

Team Transformation Solutions

Check out our team transformation solutions that can help you elevate teamwork, reduce drama, and improve productivity.

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