Raise your hand if you’ve ever worked on a dysfunctional team. How many of you just raised both hands? At some point in your career you’ve likely found yourself working on a team that just plain struggles. Maybe the team culture was stifling due to a handful of peers that emitted negativity at every single corner. Or maybe the team became dysfunctional because of managers that were more concerned about their title than actually supporting their team.
There is certainly a spectrum of team behaviors that can be considered “dysfunctional” but more often than not, dysfunctional teams are not the result of just one individual or manager but rather due to a variety of factors that are bigger than just one person.
Ineffective, dysfunction teams frequently:
- Lack of clarity on each team member’s specific roles and responsibilities.
People need more than their job description in order to feel confident about what their actual role is on the team. Ideally leadership will take the time to get to know each employee in order to understand each team member’s strengths and hidden skills. A team that is crystal clear with who does what and when they do it, are able to increase overall productivity and employee engagement.
- Do not establish or create “group norms” and/or workplace boundaries are blurred.
It’s easy to assume that everyone understands what the office group norms are so it can feel very frustrated when a team member begins breaking the unwritten team rules. Dysfunctional teams will gossip about the offender but take the time to explain “how the team works.” It’s important to teach team members everything from the expectations of how disagreements are handled to something as “minor” as where to store your winter jacket! High-performing teams take the time to communicate the group norms, especially when new team members are added.
- Poor communication practices and lack of follow through.
It matters how you speak to people. It’s critical that team members do what they say they are going to do. Teams with strong communication practices understand the importance of proactive communication. For example, starting every morning with a quick team touchpoint meeting sets the stage for proactive communication and ensures everyone is focused on the actual priorities that will move the business forward.
- Have team members that are not held accountable
It’s all fine and dandy to communicate the group norms, to take the time to clarify the individual roles and responsibilities within the team, but if team members are not held accountable when they don’t do their work, or when they treat someone poorly then the team will continue to struggle. It’s human nature to question why you’re working so hard when Suzy “gets away” with everything.
So now what? We know what causes dysfunctional teams but how can you break the cycle? Whether or not you are a formal manager on your team, you can still step up and attempt to positively influence your workplace culture. That begins by looking at yourself first and reflecting on how you may be contributing the dysfunction. Make a choice every day to lead by example, shift your attitude, step up your actions and encourage others to follow you!