Team Workshop

Reflect Team Norms

Facilitate good Conflict Behavior by reflecting team norms
55-90 minutes
3-10 people
Remote & on-site


Behavior in groups is guided by – often unconscious – behavior patterns that are relatively stable and expected by group members: team norms. For example, a team norm may be that you are supposed to arrive punctual to meetings. Or that the team assumes that you should not work on weekends. Norms help the group avoid embarrassing interpersonal problems (Feldman, 1984). The clue: An explicit specification of such core team norms reduces the amount of energy team members put on discussing acceptable behavior.

Team workshop instructions


  • Whiteboard and sticky notes, (optional: additional poster to document final team norms)
  • Decide, if you want the result of the workshop to be just a list, or an official document that the team commits to.
    • If you want the document to be official: Make sure that the whole team is present.

Check-In (5 minutes)

  • Welcome the team and use a check-in question to help everyone become present. (Proposal: Like which movie character do you feel today?)
  • Introduce the workshop’s goal and overview.

Goal: Discover our team’s implicit norms & document them.

Overview: After explaining the concept of “norms”, we’ll brainstorm the norms of our teams and try to find a set of norms, that we’re all willing to commit to.

Explain norms: While some norms are also “rules” (legislation or company guidelines), most norms are implicit expectations based on how the team works together. Group norms are not only about “What we should not do”, but also about “what we should do” or even “strive for”. It’s OK for group norms to include ideals as well.

Step 1 (10 minutes): Individual brainstorming

  • Let everyone brainstorm norms based on (a) positive behaviors that the team values as well as (b) behavior that is not accepted or “punished” within the team.
  • Ensure that everyone is brainstorming on their own to decrease the possibility of groupthink.
  • Set a limit of 10 norms per person (it can also be less).

Step 2 (15-30 minutes): Presentation

  • Now, every team member shares their ideas and places the stickies on the whiteboard.
  • Each presenter can place the stickies near existing ones if ideas are similar.

Note: If your team is bigger than eight people, you could think about forming pairs of two and letting them discuss their ideas for max. 5 minutes before one of the two shares their summary with the whole group.

Step 3 (10 minutes): Identify themes

  • Once all stickies are places on the whiteboard, ask for clarification needs or questions.
  • Ask the team to name the (up to) 5 most important overarching themes arising from the collected ideas. Draw a circle around those groups/ themes.
  • Now it’s time to agree on a specific title for each theme. Don’t just make it a word like “Punctuality” but a real norm like: “We expect everyone to join meetings on time or give an upfront notice.”
  • Repeat this process for each of the most important themes.

Step 4 (10 minutes): Create commitment

  • This step is undervalued, but very important: Ask each member of the group, if they agree to committing to these norms and actively speak up if they are violated.
  • Take objections seriously and ask the group to refine a norm until all objections are cleared.
  • Once each norm is finally agreed upon, write it on a separate area on the whiteboard or even a poster.
  • Optionally, if you use the poster for the team norms: Add the sub-heading “I commit to these norms and will speak up if I suspect or observe their violation.” and ask everyone to sign the poster.

This will help raise team member commitment to abide by the now defined norms. “This wasn’t just for fun. This is our bible now.”

Ending & Checkout (5 minutes)

  • To have impact in your daily work, the norms should be visible: Decide as a team where the norms should be shared in the office or the digital workspace.
  • As a check-out question, ask everyone which of the final norms surprised them the most.
Note for the follow-up: The team norms are not written in stone. They are written on paper. Even metaphorically. They are always open to discussion and re-assessment. Team members should be able to refer to them when conflicts arise. Also use your team’s retrospectives to continuously reflect their implementation and even identify possible changes.

First Aid ⛑🩹

  • Your team has too many ideas for team norms
    In that case, you could add a dot-voting in step 3: Everybody has 5 votes and chooses which ones are the most important ones by sticking (or simply drawing them) dots on the stickies.
  • Your team doesn’t have any ideas for team norms
    The following questions might help to spark inspiration:
    • Which behaviors or characteristics make us successful as a team?
    • Which behaviors do annoy you when working with other teams? (contrasting your team to others could help to identify special aspects of your team)
    • Which behaviors do team members object or even punish?
    • Which behaviors or characteristics are especially important for the kind of tasks your team is working on? Because the key is to have the right norm for the right task at the right time (Teh, Baniassad, van Rooy and Boughton, 2012).

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