How to Fix Dysfunctional Teams


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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dysfunctional teams can be difficult to work with and cause issues for the larger companies. Trying to fix teams with problems can provide benefits, but how do you go about repairing them?

Article 4 Minutes
How to Fix Dysfunctional Teams

Teamwork is always a hot topic in business After all, it helps to increase productivity, communication and the chance of success. Unfortunately, good teamwork isn't always a given, and many teams can be highly dysfunctional, which can be damaging to your company.

Fixing a dysfunctional team is an important task for managers in order to ensure that every member is able to work together in a productive way. Failing to understand and address the issues that are affecting your team can mean that they get worse, you struggle to retain staff and there is an increased chance of in-fighting.

While no team is going to be completely without its faults, there are ways you can improve its dynamic, cultivate better levels of engagement and encourage innovation. Doing this requires strong leadership and a plan.

Determine the team's problem

You can't start to fix a dysfunctional team until you know what is stopping it from working. This is why the process should start by looking at exactly why the team isn't working as well as it could, which should be done from the outside but also with input from each team member.

Fast Company suggests that there are three different types of dysfunctional team, all of which have their own issues.

War Zone

The first is the 'war zone', which is where there is a strong sense of competition rather than collaboration, meaning it can be hard to reach agreements and for members to work together.

Love Fest

The second type of dysfunctional team is the 'love fest', which is where the team becomes insular, causing a separation from the rest of the company. Not only can this affect communication with other teams, it instills a sense of walking on eggshells, so as not to upset anyone, meaning difficult decisions might not be made.


Finally, the 'unteam' is where everyone works separately, with the only link being the team leader. Communication tends to be top-down, there is no collaboration and any team activities are not viewed positively.

Understanding the main issues of your team and assessing which category they fit into can allow you to put a plan into place in order to result in a better functioning team.

Look outside the team

Are there processes or issues in the way the wider company that might be causing issues for your team? As People Results points out, it's easy enough to place the blame solely on the dysfunctional team, but there are often outside influences that can result in issues, or at least exacerbate them.

Looking at whether there are any aspects of the company that can be causing problems means you can address processes and systems that can be affecting your team negatively. While you may not be able to change these external issues completely, there might be options for altering how your team approaches them, which can improve matters.

Talking to everyone about company process can also give you enough information to take to business decision makers, who may well opt to change the things you have flagged up.

Be transparent

A lack of trust is a huge issue within dysfunctional teams, which means that transparency can go a long way. Be honest about the issues within the team, what needs to happen to address them and what you are doing to improve general team performance.

It's all well and good having a plan, but not sharing this with the team can mean workers aren't on the same page and unintentionally get in the way of improvements. Sharing every step with your team, giving regular updates and getting input can help highlight anything that isn't working, build trust and allow you to see if there are any particularly problematic team members or relationships to deal with.

Over time, this transparency could help to improve overall group communication and mean that each team member is happier to share their views and opinions. This could result in better awareness of potential problems before they start to affect the team as a whole.

Create team objectives

To get everyone working together, they all need to be striving for the same thing, which means setting objectives is key to encouraging individuals to work better together. Tech Target suggests creating objectives and milestones that everyone agrees to, using measurable targets in order to assess success.

Monthly team reviews can then take place to see how things are progressing, offering a forum for team members to share ideas on what is and isn't working. These meetings should focus on the positives to show that the team is appreciated, but not gloss over any negatives. This should ensure no one feels undervalued and each team member knows their work is being appreciated. Once targets are reached, it can also be a good idea to provide a reward of some kind so everyone knows that their effort is for a reason.

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