What to do When You Have a Dysfunctional Team

Open computers at a work table.

Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” and this is especially true for a company’s organization. When all parts of a team work together well, the result is a synergistic effect that is just brilliant. However, when even one member of a team is toxic or unproductive, it can seriously disrupt the entire team’s performance despite everyone else’s best efforts.

When You Have A Dysfunctional Team

Dysfunctional teams can affect the company’s bottom line and chase off high-performing talent. That said, it is not too late to make positive changes. Now is the time to do a CTRL+ALT+DEL to reboot communication, expectations, and workflow. Below, we’re going to take a look at ways you can implement the change needed to get your team as a whole on the track to better productivity and relationships.

Assess Strengths/Weaknesses as a Whole and Individually

Start by triaging your team. Make a list of the strengths and weaknesses you can identify both as a team and individually. Is the team united around a common purpose? Are there one or two members carrying the team, while the others do only as much as they have to? Are there individuals who are gossiping, sabotaging others’ efforts, or lacking accountability? Or are they acting too safe, being too polite about feedback, and not wanting to step on others’ toes?

Whether there is poor communication, poor team structure, or something else, identifying the root causes of the issues, as well as your team’s strengths, will help you determine what actions to take.

Take Ownership for Your Team’s Function and Dysfunction

Take ownership and lead by example when it comes to your team’s health. Talk to them about what you’ve observed, how that has impacted the company’s mission and the team’s purpose, and take ownership to improve. When you lead by example, you can lead them to take accountability when something doesn’t go according to plan, or how to troubleshoot issues. When your team isn’t held accountable, improvements can’t be made. Foster a healthy environment for this to happen, and they will be able to work together to prevent issues even before they come up.

Encourage Feedback…Even When it Leads to Conflict

Encouraging feedback among teams will strengthen your people, processes, and outcomes. Many times, people back off from sharing conflicting ideas because they worry about starting arguments or hurting feelings. When creativity and ideas are stifled for fear of speaking up, the entire team suffers. On the other side of the coin, some of the more dominant and domineering personalities can take over the collaboration process, leading to the entire team’s efforts suffering.

Work with your team to discuss processes for sharing feedback and ideas. Show them how to provide constructive criticism in such a way that it leads to bigger and better ideas. You may have to moderate the process at first, but once their trust grows, you can gradually step back and allow them to do what they do best as a team.

Get Them to Buy-In

People who are not invested in the purpose won’t produce the results you need. Whether this is from lack of clarity or a toxic culture, their lack of commitment could have devastating effects. Top talent will become disengaged and burned out if they have to carry the weight of the team. People who are new to the team will have a hard time finding direction. And those who are already feeling disgruntled will fall deeper into that thought trap.

Get them to buy into the mission again. Provide clarity on the goals, the “why”, KPIs, and the role that each person must play to make the mission a success. When trust and culpability are brought into this dynamic, they can hold themselves—and each other—accountable.

Strive for Progress, Not Perfection

Change does not happen overnight. This is especially true when working on improving an entire team’s culture. When cultural change is needed, creating a sense of urgency can influence a change in mindset. Execution of this change will take time, however. Focus less on overnight perfection, and more on seeing progress over time. Celebrate wins along the way and look objectively at losses to determine what can go better next time. For those who are resistant to change or don’t know how to do it, put work into team coaching, which will lead it higher performing teams and satisfaction.

This process can seem daunting, and it’s by no means an easy transformation to make happen. At Culture Innovations, we are dedicated to sharing our expertise with leaders and teams to create a stronger, more productive workplace for years to come. Start by getting in touch or learn more about our team coaching services, and solutions for organizational wellbeing.

Written by Nancy Benthien

August 25, 2020

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