How to Maintain Mutual Esteem in Teams

By Alex Moskov July 27, 2021 | 4 min read

If you’re reading this, you likely work in a demanding environment that requires a lot from you personally and from your team. Inevitably, these high-output environments add stress to our roles and cause friction within our teams. In high-pressure environments, it can be very difficult to maintain mutual esteem among your colleagues.

To ensure effective teamwork, individuals must work to maintain high levels of mutual esteem. Team members must respect each others’ abilities, recognize each others’ successes, and feel good about their own contributions to organizational success. 

Maintaining mutual esteem is difficult work. As the saying goes, it takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel.

Look for Common Threats to Maintaining Mutual Esteem

A few behaviors that inevitably lead to a dysfunctional environment  include:

  • Talking or gossiping about a team member to others, instead of working out issues directly with those they’re in conflict with. Humans are wired to seek out a collective feeling, so when people are pushed to a point of disagreement, they tend to cope by trying to “rally up” similar sentiments with others on their team. This doesn’t do much beyond isolating team members and exacerbating the friction. 
  • Disparaging the opinions of others, verbally attack others in public, or interrupting others they disagree with. To give themselves more credibility, people will try to put others down. This not only erodes mutual esteem but also suffocates the hopes of effective collaboration and creative breakthroughs. 
  • Making requests and giving orders that demonstrate an attitude of superiority. Even if you are in an executive position, it’s important to not let ego corrupt your ability to lead effectively.
  • Failing to recognize others for their contributions to team success, claiming too much credit for themselves. Doing so saps team members of their desire to contribute to the overall team’s success and encourages them to simply perform at the minimally acceptable threshold of their job. 
  • Giving work to others without giving enough background information to ensure they are confident they can complete the work successfully. We can’t expect our team members to operate in a vacuum. We need them to see how their contributions matter for the whole of a project. 

Tips to Maintain Mutual Esteem

To maintain mutual esteem, it’s useful to keep a quick mental list of simple strategies like these: 

Instead of just stating your opinions and beliefs, encourage others to express themselves. The key is to stimulate your team to want to contribute and view their contributions as productive.

When appropriate, ask the other person about their point of view before stating yours. This will help reveal creative insights that would otherwise be hidden in the shadow of your statement.

Summarize what you have heard the other person say before jumping in to share your point of view. Getting all parties on the same page help to eliminate any future confusion.

Find something positive to say about the other person’s point of view before putting forth a counter-argument. Remember, it’s all about nurturing a collaborative atmosphere. 

Attack the problem, not the person: make assertive statements about the problem, express your feelings clearly, and state the results you expect. Attacking a person’s ideas won’t do much other than make them feel bad, get defensive, and reduce your overall team’s willingness to take risks. 

In team meetings, make a point of asking all team members about their opinions on tough issues. People will feel more connected and motivated to solve a single problem if they feel that they’ve been heard. 

Avoid “you” statements and communicate with “I” statements. For example, rather than saying, “You caused a big problem for me when you didn’t get me that paperwork,” say, “I experienced a big problem when I didn’t get that paperwork from you.”

Make a point of understanding what others need to accomplish their goals and contribute to results. You should know exactly what a team member needs to have the runway to do what they need to do. 

Give unreciprocated gifts of thanks, recognition, unexpected help, etc. Not only are these things free, but they can provide much-needed encouragement to voluntarily increase their contributions. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, your ability to maintain mutual esteem in teams will pay off substantial dividends in the long run, without needing any significant upfront investment other than your time and willingness to nurture a collaborative environment

By avoiding the several negative mutual esteem killers, you’ll protect your team from becoming dysfunctional. 

Keep a list of regular things you can do to maintain mutual esteem and moments where you can implement them for massive effectiveness. For example, meetings are an excellent place to encourage mutual esteem while simultaneously handling important mission-critical items.


When tension increases, our automatic reflex tends to be to talk more and listen less. Tension makes us uneasy, and when we feel uneasy, we lose sight of the long view and get defensive.

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