Perceptions vs. Reality

How our assumptions influence the way we think, work, and collaborate.

Teamwork is all about how you see it.

Perception deeply affects the way you work with others. But perception doesn’t always match reality, and the gap in between is a recipe for unspoken (and therefore unmet) expectations that can make great teamwork go bad.

We surveyed 503 U.S.-based knowledge workers to uncover the perception gaps that have the biggest impact on team performance. Here’s what we found, and what it means for your team.

Team Location

Where you sit in an organizational structure affects the way you think about physical work location and productivity


of C-suite members say teams are less productive when people work in different locations


But only 30% of workers agree.


of people surveyed say they work in the same environment as their teammates.

Our State of Teams study found that teams can be productive anywhere. But teams who work in the same environment (whether office, remote, or a hybrid) are most productive.

Team Objectives

The more diverse your team is, the more likely you’ll have different ideas of what’s most important and why.


Cross-functional teams include an average of 4 functional roles.


of respondents belong to 10+ cross-functional teams within their company.


of cross-functional teams have formalized goals or targets.


of workers have joined a new team within the past two years.

With networks of cross-functional teams becoming the norm, clarifying each team’s purpose is vital – especially since people arrive on the team with different perspectives based on functional role and tenure. And yet:

My team didn’t have a kickoff or welcome meeting

66% of respondents

My team doesn’t exist in official company records

40% of respondents

My team doesn’t explicitly define why each person is here

48% of respondents

Team Roles

People assume they know what work is covered by which teammate. But assumptions leave the team vulnerable to confusion and wasted effort.


of respondents believe a lack of clarity in roles can derail a team – and yet…


don’t feel their own role on the team is sufficiently defined and want more clarity.

Here’s an expectation you may not be aware of: most workers think the manager is the one who should define roles and responsibilities.

Yet C-suiters are likely to say it’s actually the team that defines roles.

Workers who want “much more” definition

56% of C-suiters

30% of non-C-suiters

Team Problem Solving

People often have conflicting ideas about who should be solving problems, depending on their role on the team.


Only 9% of workers reported that someone with expertise in the problem at hand solves it.

Workers consider “problem-solving” to be a top-3 skill for individual contributors. But workers don’t identify it as a top-3 skill for managers.

And yet, workers expect managers to be the one to solve problems.

Team Success

Successful teams are more likely to be derailed by personality conflicts than by poor communication, lack of information, tools, or expertise.

Here’s what our survey respondents said about what stands in the way of their team’s success.

  • “Toxic” co-workers

  • Distrustful co-workers

  • Animosity or personal conflict within the team

  • Lack of access to information

  • Unclear instructions/goals

  • Lack of access to teammates’ knowledge/input

  • A know-it-all

  • Lack of access to digital tools

  • A co-worker who misses meetings

  • Duplication of work

  • A micro-managing co-worker

  • Infrequent meetings/not enough communication

  • Too many meetings/lack of independent work time

  • Co-workers with the same function or area of expertise

  • Too many “facilitators”

  • Extremely
  • Very
  • Somewhat
  • Not very/Not at all

The most effective decisions are made with a shared understanding of work and clear expectations of teammates.

Unfortunately, humans aren’t the best mind readers, so many teams are in a constant state of misunderstanding. But the good news is that getting everyone on the same page isn’t difficult – the trick is carving out time to have the necessary conversations.

Regular check-ins to ensure expectations are aligned go a long way in building a harmonious, high-performing team. Be sure to touch on things like team composition changes, allocation of new responsibilities, plans for unlikely situations, and team communication.

About this research

In a partnership with Bloomberg, Atlassian conducted web-based focus groups among teams across several industries and geographies, evaluating 5-key hypotheses relating to team success. To further confirm conclusions, we surveyed 503 US employees between November 30 and December 12, 2021.