Counterproductive or disruptive to effective performance.
Social norms are sets of shared beliefs about how people should behave. Teams and other types of groups develop norms to indicate acceptable ways of interacting. Norms create expectations, set standards, and reflect the collective value of the team members. Once formed, norms are not easily changed.
How Norms Emerge
Teams can create norms through discussions among team members. Often, during the forming phase of team development, members will have conversations about standards of behavior for the group. By doing so, teams can identify and develop norms that support their collaboration and productivity.
Both establishing and maintaining norms are indicators of a team's maturity, made possible only when members have developed working relationships. Effective norms can develop on their own, especially if team members have prior experience working on successful teams. However, without explicit direction dysfunctional norms such as aversion to new ideas or conflict avoidance may take hold.
Norms are different from rules. Rules require or prohibit behavior and are typically issued by someone with the authority to direct others to comply and to impose sanctions if they do not. People might agree or disagree with a rule, but they generally are not free to ignore them. In contrast, norms are sets of expectations, not edicts. Team members themselves agree upon and reinforce norms through how they behave with each other. The clearer and more explicit the norms, especially if they are written down, the more effective they are at influencing team members' behavior.
Through the process of developing shared norms of behavior, team members begin to hold each other accountable for how they contribute to the team. By pointing out when someone violates a norm, the team helps keep its performance on track.
To the extent that team members can rely on norms to shape behavior, the team may experience less uncertainty and more efficiency in how work gets done. For example, a norm about what constitutes timely completion of tasks may help focus individual efforts. Because people act in accordance with norms, their behavior can become predictable and provide stability to the team.