11 Tips for Choosing Team Norms (With Examples)

Updated September 30, 2022

Adopted norms, or a common set of expectations, can influence your team's behavior, attitude and morale. To be effective, your team norms should reflect members’ unique work culture and goals. In this article, we discuss how to develop and establish a list of team norms and provide examples for inspiration.

Read more: What Is Work Culture?

Why are team norms important?

Team norms, the guiding principles for employee conduct in the workplace, provide a standard set of behaviors and attitudes that allow each person on the team to know what is expected of them. Establishing norms for your team provides benefits including the following:

  • Encourages group cohesion

  • Keeps expectations fair

  • Allows self-policing

  • Sets and maintains the workplace culture

  • Provides a framework for adapting to new situations

  • Helps new team members understand expectations quickly

By determining and clearly relaying your team norms, you can encourage the behaviors and attitudes that best help the company, management and staff thrive.

Related: Stages of Team Development

How to choose team norms

The best norms for each team must be adapted to your unique work environment and depend on factors specific to the workplace, the team as a whole and the individual team members. Here are several steps to work through when choosing norms for your team:

1. Think about the specific, unique needs of your company

Doing this will help you focus on the types of expectations that will be most effective. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Do the team members work in a client-facing environment or have regular interactions with employees from other departments?

  • Are there frequent high-pressure meetings, tight deadlines or unpredictable workloads?

  • Will there be remote meetings?

2. Set norms for general conduct

Consider how you want team members to treat one another, customers, supervisors or the media. Consider what accountability expectations you have for individual team members and the team as a whole. Think about the best ways to encourage professional conduct within the team.

3. Think about norms for managers and supervisors

These might include the appropriate process for rewarding excellent performance, decision-making steps or transparency.

4. Describe expectations for team meetings

Try to include what everyone should do to prepare for and during the meeting. Think about whether there will be any follow-up, such as a summary email or an itemized list of next steps.

5. Think about norms that can improve your team's efficiency

Decide if you can think of standards for job processes or workflow or if there is a clear order of actions and a hierarchy of people to talk to for clarification.

6. Think about how your team should behave during challenging situations

These might include interactions with important clients, tight deadlines or a sudden change in task requirements. Decide how you want team members to address their concerns.

7. Reflect on your past experiences

Think about situations you have encountered with this specific team or type of work environment. Decide what worked well, what behaviors or strategies top-performing employees used and how can you adapt their strategies into norms for your team.

8. Anticipate how the needs of your team and company will change as they grow

If you will be expanding into new areas, which might require a change in team responsibilities, you may want to plan for that event. Some changes may include: adding new team members and continuing education or training requirements.

9. Ask your team members for their input and ideas

Depending on your team's needs, you can do this in a meeting, one-on-one or even by an anonymous survey. Including team members in the decision-making process may help members embrace the working norms and take responsibility for implementing them.

10. Ask other managers for ideas, especially those with successful teams and leadership styles you admire

Seek the advice of more experienced leaders. This may save you time in developing your team norms, and these mentors may have suggestions you didn't consider.

11. Think about rewards or incentives to offer

These may be for individual team members or the team as a whole. Incentives can act as positive reinforcement for the team to follow the working norms.

Examples of team norms

Use this list of sample team norms as a guide when thinking of your own:

  • If you are running a meeting, share the goals and summarize the content with the team ahead of time. If you are attending a meeting, review these items and prepare any questions or input. This way, the meetings can proceed efficiently.

  • Be on time for meetings. Management should ensure that all meetings begin and end on time.

  • During meetings, raise your hand to request to speak.

  • Complete all assignments and only accept work that you can reasonably expect to complete successfully. Be willing to say when a task is likely to exceed what you can accomplish given your training level or current workload. Doing this allows the team to work together to find another solution.

  • Respond to client emails within 24 hours.

  • Be respectful of the workspace. Be aware of others around you and take care to keep the working atmosphere physically and emotionally comfortable for everyone.

  • Encourage one another. Listen to your teammates and be open to feedback. Recognize your coworkers' successes.

  • Inform your team leader or manager immediately if you encounter a challenge, so you can address it together.

  • Always smile when greeting clients, even on the phone.

  • Make sure you understand your task expectations and ask for clarification if needed.

  • Be willing to ask for help. If you notice that a team member needs help, offer it, or work together to think of solutions.

  • Remember that you are part of a team. Prioritize the group's success over individual ambition.

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