Does your team swear and gossip? Why it’s actually a good thing

  • Gossip and profanity might actually be a sign of a strong team dynamic, according to one study.
  • If you work on a team or manage one, knowing the signs of a high-performing team can help strengthen the team dynamic.
  • Here are the habits of high-performing teams and what to do to help encourage these behaviors. 

Hearing profanity on an internal call or gossip spread amongst team members would typically set alarm bells off for most managers. However, a recent survey conducted by ignite80 suggests that these behaviors could actually be a sign of a high-performing team.

How do swearing and gossiping impact team camaraderie and performance? According to psychologist Dr. Ron Freidman, founder of ignite80, high-performing teams have authentic relationships. Feeling comfortable enough to speak freely around teammates is just one indicator of this type of relationship. 

Here’s a look at additional insights from the report and how to leverage them to boost team dynamics and performance

What makes a high-performing team?

According to the report, high-performing teams exhibit behaviors beyond professional courtesy, forming habits you’d more often see in friendships. A few key examples include:

1. High-performing teams swear and complain

Swearing and complaining are often considered negative actions. Yet, in the survey, 38% of high-performing team members stated they use profanity while communicating with others on the team, compared to 27% of other teams. High-performing teams also reported complaining to one another more often and using sarcasm more frequently than other teams.

Though he does have certain guardrails in place, Ian Sells, co-founder, and CEO of RebateKey, has found that encouraging employees to speak freely in this manner has strengthened his team dynamic. “While we have rules and regulations that ensure that no obscene and degrading talk is done on our chats, some milder versions are okay,” he explains. “It makes conversations more real and human. Communicating online can remove the human aspect of communication. It lacks human touch. Adding even some #@%!! to express themselves can make the conversations more real. However, we never tolerate being disrespectful or ill towards anyone. These expressions that add emotions and human touch to statements are allowed.”

2. High-performing teams connect frequently

The report found that high-performing teams don’t rely on a few Zoom calls to keep in touch. While the average amount of calls of other groups were six, high-performing teams average around ten phone calls with team members per day.

Though you may think adding another meeting or call to your team’s agenda may result in groans, staying connected in this manner, even a more casual way, can benefit team members. 

3. They make small talk

What may seem like time wasted at the start of a meeting is actually a characteristic of high-performing teams. The survey found that 65% of high-performing teams begin meeting by checking in with their fellow team members, compared to 41% of teams.

Next time you join a meeting where team members ask how everyone is or share their plans for the weekend, consider adding to the conversation rather than immediately pivoting to the task at hand. 

4. They joke around

When you know someone well, making fun of them in good jest can be something that strengthens your relationship.

In this recent report, 41% of high-performing team members said they teased their teammates as a way of bonding with them, compared to 28% of other teams.

Of course, there’s an important line to draw here, especially if you’re in a manager role. But if you join a meeting to find a member being teased about something that’s all in good fun, consider it a good thing. 

5. They’re efficient

While high-performing teams make time for things like catching up, checking in and joking around, that doesn’t necessarily mean they compromise on efficiency. In fact, quite the opposite.

The survey found that high-performing teams were 77% more likely to include an agenda for meetings and 46% more likely to ask team members to complete work before the meeting to maximize their time together. Even if it’s just an internal check-in, putting together an agenda and asking those who are joining to compile thoughts ahead of time can help strengthen the team dynamic.

6. They believe their work is valuable

High-functioning teams are made up of team members who believe that their work is making an impact. In the survey, a whopping 97% of people on high-performing teams believe that the contributions they give are important to the company’s success.

Whether you’re in a manager role or a more junior member of your team, the more you can highlight the impact your team has on the company and industry it operates in, the better your team will perform. 

7. They express themselves

It turns out that emojis and GIFs may be signifiers of a high-performing team. This survey found that 60% of high-performing teams communicate using emojis, while 52% use GIFs – which clocked in around 20-30% more than average teams do. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-timed GIF or emoji – especially at the end of a long work week.