Whether in an animation studio, retail job or any other industry, we’ve all experienced it. It makes the average person feel frustrated. The less skilled employees feel confused. The strongest workers are made to feel powerless. The production or project ends up feeling heavier than an albatross around one’s neck. We count the days to the end of that journey.

Workplace dysfunction is prevalent in today’s society. Gone are the days of “common sense”.

Let me share a couple of my own experiences with you:

Example A: I was on a project where a new employee was brought into an administrative position. His attitude from the very first day was that artists were useless and that he was “king of the castle”. There ended up being many verbal fights and disagreements with this person. Any chance he could, he would disrespect our crew. I felt like I couldn’t get off the show fast enough. Every morning I would wake up in a cloud of depression. It was a shame because it was to be one of the easiest shows in terms of style and workload – like a taking a stroll on a beach on a beautiful summer’s day. Yet this person twisted the atmosphere of the studio so much, it felt more like a graveyard.

Example B: Another project I was on got off to a very rocky start. The show was running late and budgets runneth over. Lack of proper communication (not just how much, but what was being said) led our teams in multiple directions. Certain people felt it necessary to disclose information on a “need to know basis” – even to the point of lying. Egos clashed and jeopardized the completion of the production. There was a loss of morale and the team was feeling frustrated and even depressed. I was feeling that albatross around my neck, but I wasn’t about to let it hang there. While the show went on to completion and my efforts to turn everyone’s heads around did help, it still felt like a lost cause.

So why do we find ourselves in situations of dysfunction? Is it the people we work with? The project or situations we’re given? Well, one thing is for certain – it’s often times a combination of different factors.

1) Communication – the ability to express to each other ideas and solutions and not be afraid to ask questions when it really matters. Don’t leave people in the dark or even worse, lie to one another.

2) Work ethic – the ability to complete individual duties and responsibilities. The team relies on the individuals like pillars of a temple to keep it standing strong.

3) Organization – the ability to time manage and plan out short, medium and long term goals. Chaos can spread like wildfire and can take down more than one home!

4) Personalities – getting along with each other in a positive manner and functioning as a team. The wrong personality will often create a negative atmosphere.

5) Budgets and schedules – Understanding the limitations of a given project and working within those parameters (everybody, and I mean everybody on a production crew should keep this in mind).

6) Respect – trusting in one another (both personality and skill) and being courteous of each other’s positions.

Everything above can generally be summed up as “professionalism”. Being able to work together and get along as a team is the most important factor. Anyone familiar with sports will understand the need for team effort. When individuals play for themselves, the team usually suffers and games are lost. The same can be said for business: when individuals fail to meet the needs of the team, the production may falter. This applies to the entire hierarchy of a team. Common sense? I think so.

I’d like to end this article on a positive note:

Example C: Recently, I worked on a production that was challenging in terms of schedules and workload. There was a boatload of drawing and a few extra hours to have to put in every week. Yet, it happened to be one of the best and fun shows I’ve ever worked on. How did that happen? Simple, our crew was the best functioning team I have ever worked with. No egos, no slackers, great work ethic and great personalities. It felt like I was working with a family I loved.

What experiences would you like to share? Better yet, what advice would you like to share with the rest of us?

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