How to Fix your Dysfunctional Team

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(Team members at a company meeting)

Your team at work just doesn’t seem to be clicking. Something is off, although you can’t quite pinpoint it. Maybe your team is dysfunctional?

“You probably know intuitively if your team is dysfunctional, mainly because it’s pretty unpleasant to be around your team members,” notes Fiona Adler, founder of Actioned .com, a productivity tool. “Some specific symptoms include; building resentments between team members, low performance (along with low interest in improving performance), and behaviors including score-keeping, blaming, and lack of trust.”

There are many ways in which a team can be dysfunctional. According to management psychologist and executive coach Dan Russell, partner at RHR International, these include: “The team agrees in the meeting room but does the opposite on the job; team members hoard information (new information surprises during meetings is an indicator); and/or team discussions are dominated by a few outspoken voices.”

There are questions you can ask yourself to determine if your team is dysfunctional. “Do people on the team seem to put the ‘me’ before the ‘we? If team members have a me-first attitude, only look out for themselves, and don’t seem to have each other’s backs, this is a clear sign of dysfunction,” explains  workplace expert and leadership development consultant Matt Dubin of Matt Dubin Consulting.

He asks, “Is conflict avoided at all costs? Some teams will do anything to avoid confrontation and difficult conversations, often at the expense of having authentic, productive conversations and promoting healthy disagreement. Teams that never have any type of healthy conflict may be dysfunctional.”

But don’t worry, you can reboot your team. First, take a good look at your team. “Re-evaluate and change the team membership–are the right people on the team?” asks Russell.

In order to do so, you will have to connect with your team members. “Meet with your people one-on-one. Get to know them beyond their work and find out if they’re getting what they want out of their day-to-day what their goals are, how they want to grow, etc.  If each person feels care about and valued individually, they will be more likely to sacrifice for the team, speak their mind, and stay with your organization,” advises Dubin.

Talk to and listen to your team. “Make your people part of the conversation about the team’s direction. When you are thinking about big-picture strategic decisions, involve your people. This could be in the form of team meetings, informal conversations, emails, slack, etc. If your people feel like they are a part of where the team is going and have a say, any existing dysfunction is likely to decrease,” Dubin points out.

Once you feel you have the right team in place, start team building. Remember, this won’t be fast; it is an ongoing process.

Talking is good, but action has to also be taken to make real change in your team. “Confront the team’s issues. Rather than side-stepping around delicate subjects, address them head-on (but gently) so that everything is out on the table. Avoid blaming anyone and acknowledge your own role in the current situation. State the direction you’d like to see the team moving in and try to get some buy-in (or at least agreement) with other members,” says Adler.

These steps will build a stronger team culture, says Adler. “When people understand each other, they generally respect each other and don’t want to let each other down,” she explains. “This is the simple way of thinking about culture.”

Also, remember you are part of the team and some of the dysfunction might be coming from you as well. “Look in the mirror. If you are leading team, there is always something you can do to improve. Educate yourself on different styles of leadership and leadership exemplars, and perhaps do a 360 with your team and get their feedback on how you’re doing,” notes Dubin. “If you make it known that you care about being the best leader you can be, this attitude will be contagious and influence your people to develop themselves as well.”