At work, there are two types of communication – “above the table” and “below the table.” Above-the-table communication involves everything we say out loud, like discussions about which strategy to use or which business plan to execute. In other words, it’s all professional work talk.
Then there’s the communication that’s going on under the table – opinions, rivalries, judgments, unhealthy patterns of interaction … you get the idea. This encompasses all of the things that are usually left unsaid, but still communicated through actions.
For obvious reasons, the underbelly of the table is a messy place that many teams avoid visiting. But if you’re serious about improving your team’s dynamics and workplace culture, you’re going to have to make the trip.
It may sound intimidating, but to truly understand what’s going on under the table, you’ll just need to focus on two simple questions. First, what threats are your team facing in the workplace? Second, what types of “armor” are they using in response to those threats?
Threats and armor are topics we’ll dig into in the following sections. For now, it’s important to understand that they are the two main drivers of below-the-table drama. Once you learn to recognize them, you can begin fixing them.