Teamwork in the engineering profession is very essential to becoming a well respected and successful engineer. At the best of times, good working relationships can often be accompanied with conflicts when working closely with other professionals on a project. Conflicts can arise from many sources but most relate to interpersonal, gender and cultural differences. Sourcing the Code of Ethics, “A practitioner must co-operate in working with other professionals engaged on a project”. [1]

                Professionals will get into arguments due to differences in working style, personality and sometimes the ability to take criticism. When working closely with one another, it is important to listen actively to everything that is said. If there is disagreement on a topic, seeking a polite way to tell others that you may not agree with what has been discussed can be vital to each other’s respect for one another. Finding points of agreement even though you may hold different views on the topic is paramount to a good working relationship as well.

                It is also very important to avoid gender and cultural bias when working together. Giving everyone a chance to be heard is crucial in making a project successful, and do not assume differences in approach due to gender or cultural diversity. It is our duty as professionals to be ethical in working with others and to treat everyone’s voice and opinion with equal importance.

Members of the Engineering Team

           In engineering, the definition of a 'team' can be best described as "a small group of people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable"[2]. The engineering problems of today are becoming increasingly complex due partly to advancements in modern technology. Thus, in order to fully analyze a given situation, a 'team' with broad backgrounds and diverse ways of thinking is necessary.

Functioning engineering teams need members with a broad set of talents including creativity, communication, leadership, technical knowledge, planning and organization. A team's performance level may be determined by the interactions between individual attributes, communication, the working environment and the team's ability to effectively complete project tasks.

In order to fully understand a team, a project manager generally considers five main issues in team building:

  1. Interdependence: Team members are linked to each other in a way that one cannot succeed unless all other members of the group also succeed. Functioning independently or working against one another can prolong a project or lead to an undesired outcome.
  2. Goal Specification: In order for a team to succeed, all members must have common goals. Individual goals should be clearly communicated to all team members.
  3. Cohesiveness: This refers to the 'meshing' of the skills, abilities, talents and personalities of members. For effective performance of a team, each member should be valued and respected by all others involved. 
  4. Rules and Norms: Roles may include leaders, coordinators, recorders, devil's advocate etc. Roles allow a team to fully analyze and effectively tackle the requirements of a task. Norms are generally agreed upon rules that influence the acceptable behaviour of team members (ie attending meetings on time).
  5. Communicaton: It is important for all team members to contribute to group discussions, as well as listen and pay attention to ideas, opinions, and suggestions of others. Contributons should be encouraged by being non-judgmental, friendly and responsive.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Professional engineers, Ontario, Canada
  2. J. R. Katzenbach and D. K. Smith, The Wisdom of Teams. Boston, MA: Harvard Business. School Press, 1993
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.