Fixing a Dysfunctional Team

How would you describe what it feels like to be part of a dysfunctional team? Soul-sucking, discouraging, frustrating…

Dysfunction can happen within any group of people and impacts productivity and performance.  It saps the joy from work and may begin a downward spiral for the team members.

Here are a few ways to address team dysfunction:

  • Focus on the evidence.  Don’t assume that you know why there is dysfunction.  What words or behaviors are causing an issue? Stay objective and address what you are observing.  Too many conversations veer off into the assignment of meaning. Beginning a conversation with assumptions (why are you trying to sabotage our team?) will create further dysfunction.
  • Take time to realign. Team composition, direction and focus can change over time. Perhaps the team got off to a strong start and just needs to be reminded of the goal, their roles and the leader’s commitment to success.
  • Have a courageous conversation. Get to the root cause of the issue. We’ve seen many symptomatic fixes that don’t get to the heart of the problem. Explain what you see, why it matters and ask the team member what they think. This gets them engaged in a mutual diagnosis of the issue so it can be solved. If a team member is not interested in solving the issue then perhaps a courageous decision needs to be made.

Team dysfunction can manifest in missed deadlines, frustrated team members or the inability to make a decision. Fortunately, you can do something about dysfunction. Whether you are a team member or team leader, step up and be accountable for raising the issue of dysfunction. The energy drain of a dysfunctional team is worse than leaving your front door open on a subzero day. Be part of the solution and focus on the evidence, take time to realign and have a courageous conversation.

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