Team agreement process

This process is used in collaboration with adult team members to develop their own agreement about how they will interact at work. It is intended to support a high-functioning, inclusive and psychologically safe team.

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The Team agreement process helps team members co-create a plan for how they will interact with each other at work.

Mindful Employer Canada uses the term "Collective ethics" to describe shared values and guidelines that are developed by a team. This process facilitates that development.

It is a process that asks individual team members and the team as a whole to get clear about how they want to interact, and what they need to do to make this a reality. This helps everyone to not only be intentional about the actions they choose that can support psychological safety and inclusion, but also supports team members to hold each other accountable for what they’ve agreed on together.

Though all teams can benefit from the Team agreement process, teams that have identified room for improving psychological safety and inclusion can especially benefit. If you’re unsure, the Psychologically safe team assessment is one way to ask your team members questions confidentially about their experience on the team.

If your team already works well together, the team agreement process can help solidify what’s working and deepen your commitment and intention to continue working together in inclusive and productive ways.

This process is not meant to manage individual or team task performance or investigate serious allegations. It is a process whereby the team members set the game rules for how they will interact going forward, to foster an ongoing sense of psychological safety and inclusion.


Whether you’re struggling as a team or doing great, the team agreement process walks through the same inquiry framework:

  1. Establish what is working right now.
  2. Create a vision for how the team to wants to interact.
  3. Identify the behaviours and supports that would enable this vision.
  4. Develop a game plan for how team members can respectfully hold each other accountable.
  5. Formalize the agreement by writing it up.
  6. Make it an evergreen work-in-progress document and re-visit regularly.

Who should facilitate?

For most teams, anyone with good emotional and social intelligence who:

  • Is objective and impartial
  • Is not involved in, or the cause of, any team concerns
  • Respects the process and every team member
  • Will keep discussions confidential
  • Does not impose their own solutions

Get a sense of where the team is at in terms of overall climate:

  • Do any team members treat others with a lack of civility or respect?
    • Do you ever witness or hear about people rolling their eyes, ignoring or teasing others? 
  • Are there unresolved tensions, hostilities, hurts, conflicts or personality clashes?
    • Do you have members who don’t speak up or interact well with the leader?
    • Do you ever witness or hear about harsh criticism or personal attacks?
    • Do you have any team members who avoid or refuse to interact with each other?
  • Are some team members unwilling or unable to collaborate in productive ways?
    • Do you have any members who rarely share information or credit for accomplishments with anyone else?
    • Do you have star performers and those who rarely get recognized or appreciated? 

If your answer to any of the above questions is yes – You may want to consider bringing in someone external to the team who is both impartial and trustworthy. They can begin with confidential one-on-one interviews with each team member using the worksheet questions

The facilitator will then put together the responses to present anonymously to the team as a potential team agreement. The team will not know who said what, but the themes and patterns that emerged from the interviews will be shared by the majority. See the Sample team agreement below. In this situation, individuals provided most of the information, but it was written up in a way that no individual was identified by role, name or task.

If your answer to all of the questions above is “no” – you may still want to proceed with the individual one-on-one interviews to create safety and comfort for each member to express their true vision for the team and share any concerns.

If the psychological safety and inclusion on your team is high enough to do this together as a team, the collaboration process may provide a bonding experience. In this case, you may want to ask the worksheet questions and discuss the answers as a group. The team decides as a group what will go into the agreement. If you need support in facilitating this process, see Facilitation tips for leaders.

Know existing policies and processes

Whoever will facilitate this process should have knowledge of the existing policies and processes in place that must be respected in addition to this agreement. This can include policies related to bullying, harassment, accommodation, return to work, orientation, privacy, and respect in the workplace. It is important that the agreement does not violate any existing policies. 

Also, be aware of what supports are in place to address instances where the ideal or agreement isn’t being met by a team member. This could include policies, talking to a manager or HR, or professional development opportunities.

Communicate to your team

Explain that you are doing this exercise because:

  • An agreement made by and for the team is more relevant than an organizationally mandated protocol
  • As adults, we can decide how we want to interact with each other
  • The approach should support each of us to do our best work and go home at the end of the day with energy left over
  • When each team member contributes to the process, we can hold ourselves and each other accountable for the plan we’ve made together

The collaboration process

Whether you are starting the process one-on-one or together as a team, let people know that all perspectives are welcome, as long as the feedback provided is in the spirit of working together to find constructive solutions. Rather than telling someone what they’re doing wrong, we can ask someone for what we want instead. 

For example, instead of saying that no one should yell, a more constructive solution would be to ask that we all speak in a tone that is calm and professional. Another example might be instead of saying “don’t criticize”, a more constructive solution might be to offer feedback by asking a question instead of making a statement. Instead of “this widget isn’t right” you could say, “what do you need to make this widget a quarter inch longer and smoother on the edges?” 

You can take notes in one-on-one interviews or use a whiteboard or equivalent if you’re doing this together as a team.

Work through the following questions with team members. 

1. What is good about this team that you wouldn’t want to lose if there were to be some changes?

  • For example, what are the positive ways people communicate when we agree or disagree, when solving problems, raising concerns, or when people are feeling stressed?

2. What would need to change for you to be excited about coming to work, feel supported to do a good job, and be able to leave with energy at the end of the day? 

  • Please provide positive, specific and measurable changes. For example, if you want more feedback, indicate specifically how much, how often and what type of feedback works best for you. By being specific and putting it in positive terms, it’s much easier for us to determine and measure whether or not it’s getting done.

If you are doing this as a team exercise, you may wish to take a break or press pause after the first two questions so you can analyze and summarize themes and patterns for the larger group and check back in on your understanding before you move on. 

In the next two questions, you’re asking about behaviours, words and actions that will take your team towards or away from their vision of an ideal team. To help with this, the following are some potential examples of “towards” and “away” behaviours. It’s important, however, that your team describes the specific behaviours, words and actions that are relevant to them. 

Potential "towards" behaviours

  • Praise for others’ efforts
  • Asking if anyone needs help, when able
  • Valuing diverse opinions
  • Respectful discussion
  • Healthy conflict resolution
  • Transparency
  • Honesty

Potential “away” behaviours

  • Gossip
  • Sarcasm
  • Rolling eyes
  • Sighing loudly
  • Excluding people
  • Grandstanding
  • Arguments
  • Personal attacks

3. What are the behaviours, words or actions that will take your team towards this ideal?

  • What are exceptions to this? For example, it may seem ideal to have an open-door policy, but for someone with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), this may be unreasonably distracting and interfere with their ability to get work done. Acknowledging this, the agreement could be amended to an open-door policy or notice that someone needs to focus on a task now. This can be a virtual notice or a sign on a door.

4. What behaviours will take your team away from your ideal vision?

  • What could be exceptions to this? For example, it may seem ideal in some settings to avoid swearing, but someone with Tourette syndrome who has an involuntary tic where they blurt out a profanity, may not be able to comply. Acknowledging that their behaviour is not voluntary means that agreement should be amended to avoiding voluntary swearing. 

5. What would YOU personally be willing to do differently, or continue to do, that would contribute to your vision of an ideal team? 

6. If for some reason you were having a bad day, how can someone respectfully bring to your attention that you might be engaged in an “away” behaviour or having a negative impact on others? 

  • For example, would you prefer they say something in the moment or privately? What words should they use?
  • Remind everyone that holding someone accountable is not a personal attack. Share some examples of some language that someone might use to hold someone accountable:
    • “That feels like it might be a ‘towards’ move because…”
    • “Can we chat about that? It feels like it might be an ‘away’ move.”
    • “That feels like an ‘away’ move. Do you feel differently?”
  • Once you have their answer to this question, ask “And what if that doesn’t work? What would be the next step?” You want the first response to be supportive and between individual employees, but if it doesn’t result in changed behaviour, the agreement should be clear about when the issue must be escalated.

7. How can you or your teammates demonstrate that you are taking accountability when you’ve had a potential negative impact on someone else or used “away” behaviours? 

Write up the agreement

Formalize the agreement by putting it in writing. Tell the group you’re going to record what you’ve mapped out together (or in consultation with individual employees) and bring it back to the group for approval, to make sure everyone agrees and is on the same page.

  • Do not include any names or instructions by specific role – this applies to everyone
  • Write it with a focus on solutions, without referring to past problems or pain-points
  • Stay true to what the team gave you in terms of language and ideas, but ensure that it’s not vague or ambiguous.

Ensure accountability

A critical aspect of any initiative is accountability.

  • Be clear on when and how team members will be held accountable in accordance with their own agreement. 
    • Ensure every team member is empowered to hold every other team member, including the leader, accountable in a respectful way.
    • Make sure everyone knows who to go to if the person they are trying to support, including the leader, can’t or won’t take accountability.
    • Be clear on how those who escalate a situation will be responded to and what should happen next.
    • When this is written in the agreement, you simply need to take it out from time to time to review with the team.
  • Have every employee answer these questions about being a bystander to behaviours not aligned with their team agreement:
    • What did you observe?
    • When and where did you observe it?
    • What did you do about it?
    • What was the response?
  • Teach that silence is complicity.
  • Record every incident, even when you don’t proceed.
    • Record who the recipient of the behaviour was and whether they are from an equity  seeking group.
    • Record who exhibited the behaviour, words or actions, their role and whether they are from an equity deserving group.
    • Look for patterns – who gets held accountable? Who is “let off”? 
  • Take corrective action to interrupt problematic patterns and modify the agreement to be more effective.

Make the agreement an evergreen, work-in-progress document and re-visit often or as needed. There are many team building activities that can help you continue to support cohesion and effectiveness. 

Sample agreement 

This team agreement does not take the place of any collective agreements, organizational or human resources policies, regulations or guidelines. It is a good faith agreement and represents the input provided by the members of the team. It can be modified through team consensus.

Team Agreement – As provided through interviews [dates]

Note that in this sample, the issues on this team were:

  • A recent unexpected and unwelcome organizational change
  • Lack of trust
  • Feeling unappreciated for their efforts
  • Gossip

Your agreement should also feature only the needs and suggestions of the team, whatever they are.


The recent changes have caused a lot of uncertainty and stress at every level. The path forward this team wants is characterized by trust, open two-way communication, collaboration, mutual support and a shared purpose that includes all levels of management.  

Trust and open two-way communication 

“Trust us so we can trust you.”

When blindsided by third-hand information about changes or decisions, it is common for people to have discussions amongst themselves to try to make sense of it. This is especially true when the change or decision has a direct impact on their day-to-day work. To help create a more cohesive team atmosphere, the following recommendations were offered:

  • Share relevant information with others on the team as soon as practical so that they will not hear important information from others outside the team.
    • It is understood that some information cannot be shared because it breaches confidentiality, or the person with the information is not authorized to share it. In this case, share what can be shared to eliminate rumours. 
    • Be clear on which information is to be kept confidential until further notice and trust the team to do this. This can happen when the information is sensitive or speculative.
  • When discussions are being held about potential changes that may impact the team, engage team members to help inform and influence the decisions made whenever possible. Having input into decisions is one way many team members feel heard and valued.
  • All team members should respond respectfully and with openness to ideas shared by others. Eye rolling or shooting an idea down can make individuals feel dismissed or ridiculed. Exploring ideas, even those that seem impractical, can support innovation and will make it more likely that individuals will feel safe to speak up if they have ideas in the future.

Integrity and dealing with interpersonal issues

Gossip was a problem for most, but not all. Everyone agreed that if someone had an issue or concern that involved them, they would prefer that person speak directly to them rather than going to someone else. Most felt that anyone who would gossip to them about someone else, would probably also gossip about them.

This team shared the following approach to resolving issues with each other:

  • Do it face-to-face and as soon as possible, but take a moment to consider exactly what has triggered your reaction in this moment. 
  • Share your reaction calmly using “I” statements and giving the other person the benefit of the doubt by considering the most respectful interpretation of their actions – “I don’t believe you meant any harm, or I’m not sure what you’re dealing with right now, but I was thrown off by…” Give the other person the space to respond.
  • If you are the person hearing this, try to understand the perspective of the other person rather than defending yourself. 
    • Recognize that the person came to you rather than gossiping or running to management.
    • Remember that your original intention is not the topic, it is the perception of or impact on the other person at that moment.
    • Take responsibility for the impact even if it was not your intention.
    • Look for the opportunity to learn new ways to interact so it is less likely to trigger others. 
  • For both parties, make a sincere effort to understand the perspective of the other person.
  • Together, look for a solution or decide what could happen differently in the future. 
  • Where there is not a reasonable resolution, the next level of management should be asked to address the issue. In most cases, the parties should be able to come to a compromise or understanding on their own.

Support success  

There is recognition that the organization has a responsibility to audit and monitor our work. This means that there are processes put in place to ensure that mistakes are identified and corrected. This team has no problem with the identification of mistakes and offers a mutually supportive way to address mistakes that is already used by many:

  • At every level, when a mistake is identified, go directly to the individual responsible.
  • In a gentle and supportive way, point out what the mistake is without personalizing or accusing. For example, say “The signature is missing here” instead of “You forgot to get the signature”.
  • Allow the person to offer a solution. If none is offered, ask what they need to fix this.
  • If they need help or you have a tip or strategy you use to deal with this situation, offer it to them.
  • Set a time to follow up if necessary.
  • Only escalate to a higher authority if the individual requires more support to learn how to avoid making this mistake again.

Everyone makes mistakes. Addressing them in a supportive way not only helps to create a safe place for people to learn and grow, but it also means they are less likely to continue to make the same mistake. There is responsibility on both sides – a responsibility to approach in a supportive way, and a responsibility to welcome the feedback as an opportunity to grow and learn.

“I would appreciate it if feedback was not just about our mistakes.”

It is equally important on this team that sincere efforts and hard work are acknowledged on a regular basis and especially in times of high demand or change.  While it is part of the role of leaders to do this, recognition and appreciation by other team members can go a long way in boosting the team morale and energy.  Just a “thank you” or a kind word means a lot to the members of this team.

When someone is not aligning with this agreement

“Everyone, in every situation, at every level, deserves respect and dignity when you address them.”

No one knows what another person may be going through – with their health and well-being, their relationships, their finances, their hopes or dreams. This is true no matter the age or role. This team wants to keep this in mind with every interaction with members of the public and every person who works here. 

When someone seems to be struggling with their mood, words or actions at work, rather than judging them or taking their struggle personally, this team wants to take a supportive approach. It is acknowledged that not everyone will be comfortable doing this with those they do not know well enough, but most people already do take this approach.

Gently and privately ask: “You don’t seem to be yourself, are you okay?” When someone approaches in this way, it should be recognized as an opportunity to consider the impact we may unintentionally be having on others through our mood, words or actions.

Ask: Is there anything you need – someone to listen, a change of duties if possible, or a helping hand? Some folks will want to share, and others will not. This is a personal preference. If there is nothing needed at the moment, the expectation is the person who may be having a difficult day will do their best to ensure they are not having a negative impact on others and will do their job professionally.

If for any reason this does not work, some may try again, and others will ask the supervisor to see if they can help. The approach remains supportive because any of us can have a bad day, but when our bad day has a negative impact on others, all agree the behaviour must be managed. When this behaviour happens repeatedly, the existing HR policies would come into play. This process is to help avoid that being necessary, by having each other’s backs first.


This team has the ability and desire to create a good work experience for themselves and others. All the recommendations in this document came directly from the majority of the participants who already use these approaches. 

To recap, the individuals on this team want to be trustworthy and trusted. They want to feel like an integral and valued part of this organization. They want every member, at all levels, to be treated with respect and supported to do a great job every day. 

With everyone agreeing to do this consistently going forward, every member of this team can come to work, do a good job and go home at the end of the day with energy left over. 

Additional resources

Team agreement theory | Video. This video by Dayna Lee-Baggley and Ron Pizzo explain the theory behind creating a team agreement based on a shared purpose.


  • Polk, K. L., & Schoendorff, B. (Eds.). (2014). The ACT Matrix: A New Approach to Building Psychological Flexibility Across Settings and Populations. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Contributors include.articlesAlex Kollo Coaching and ToolsDayna Lee-Baggley, Ph.D., R. Psych.Mary Ann BayntonWorkplace Strategies team 2022 to present

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