What do you mean by dysfunctions in a team?

Human interaction is based on cooperation and conflict. No two employees are the same and miscommunication and disharmony among team members can negatively affect the productivity of the company on a whole. Managing a dysfunctional team where the employees are always at loggerheads, playing the blame game, do not communicate effectively with each other and lack proper decision making abilities result in stressful situations at the work place and building up of a negative morale. Any organisation is recognized by its team and work, and a weak team will directly reflect on the work quality, this is a harrowing concern for all employers.

What is the way out of this mess?

The good news is that not all is lost. Dysfunctional teams in any organisation is actually a common phenomenon and when addressed at the right time is completely possible to overcome. Once the root causes of the dysfunctions are identified, proper communication, awareness and a willingness to change can transform ego-ridden teams towards into a harmonious bunch of productive team workers. This change is possible, but difficult to achieve and requires effort, training and interest from the employer’s side and courage, discipline and understanding from the employee’s side.

Decoding the dysfunctions

To think that a dysfunctional team is made up of bad employees or bad people is a mistake. Even the most qualified and productive of employees can falter when made to work in a team. Every employee has his own strengths, weakness and intentions and the best person too can indulge in unproductive, negative activities. The matter worsens if the team manager too is unqualified in team building and guiding. After coaching 1000’s of CEO’s and management teams, Parick Lencioni wrote a business book titled The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The five dysfunctions are arranged in a pyramid and are hierarchical. Let us deal with each one individually.

Dysfunction 1 – Absence of trust


  • Trust is the foundation of any team.
  • A team cannot work well if the members do not trust each other. The team will collapse if members refuse to be vulnerable with one other, ask for help and admit to their faults.
  • If team members do not trust each other’s judgement, opinion and decide to handle everything on their own, the team will shut down.

Example: During a group meeting, when one presents their ideas, the others do not present their views on them because they know he or she will keep defending the point, refusing to move away from it.


  • Trust building takes time and effort, it is a long process but once it starts it only grows.
  • Try understanding each other on a personal and professional level. Dig deep into the strengths and weakness of each other.
  • Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. Create a work environment that allows free expression and admission to faults without imposing judgement.
  • Share personal life histories and stories with your team members.

Dysfunction 2- Fear of Conflict


  • Without trust, teams will not be able to engage in meaningful productive debates fearing conflict in thoughts.
  • People are reluctant to express what they really feel anticipating backlash from other members.
  • This leads to behind the back comments, wastage of time and inferior decision making.
  • Avoiding controversial topics to save sentiments is destructive to progress.

Example: The number of meetings keeps increasing but the productivity of those meetings is poor. The team members simply agree with each other even if they are unhappy with the decision fearing the other members might take offense or argue their point.


  • Avoid taking matters personally. Ideological conflicts are good and are different from inter personal politics and fighting.
  • Use meetings and discussions to express your opinions openly and fearlessly.
  • Healthy conflict saves time and energy. Accept that that conflict is productive and saves everyone the trouble of revisiting old matters time and again.
  • If you are a team leader, avoid taking sides if a conflict does arise. Your job is to ensure that the conflict is resolved naturally and no one is attacked personally for having an opinion.

Dysfunction 3 – Lack of commitment


  • Lack of healthy debates and clarity of thought will lead to inability to commit to decisions.
  • You cannot commit to anything you do not believe in yourself and this happens if the decisions are taken without taking their opinion in into account. Avoiding debates and discussions too lead to lack of commitment.
  • When one does not commit to an idea, they do not take any responsibility and accountability for it.

Example – After the meeting has taken place and a decision is taken, some employees may still be sceptical to the idea and say things like “I am not party to this decision, I am not sure this will work out”


  • Before the meeting is put to an end, the last ten minutes must be reserved to review key decisions.
  • Team leaders must make sure that each member gives their opinion of the decision taken and do not hesitate from stating their thoughts.
  • Set a deadline by when the decision should be taken. Ambiguity is the worst enemy of decision making.

Dysfunction 4- Avoidance of Accountability


  • Even driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviours that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.
  • The guilt of snitching on a colleague and peer pressure discourages team members to hold each other accountable.
  • Poor performance and mediocrity slips in.
  • Ironically interpersonal Relationships suffer more because sense of resentment begins to develop towards those who do not live up to what is expected of them.

Example: The team leader knows of a member who has missed deadlines, delivered below average work and is casual towards his or her responsibility. The leader still chooses to let it pass and all the pressure falls on the leader and the other team members.


  • A weekly individual and team performance review session must be conducted.
  • The team itself and not the leader alone must be the primary and secondary accountability mechanism.
  • Attention must given to both team achievement and individual contribution.
  • Clear guidelines must be put in place regarding what each team member is expected to do in order for the team goal to be fulfilled.

Dysfunction 5 – Inattention to results


  • Individual success and status matters more than achieving team goals and collective success.
  • The business ultimately suffers, if a team has lost sight of the need for achievement.
  • Teams that are not result oriented rarely achieve targets, defeat competitors and lose out on achievement oriented clients.

Example- As no one is held accountable for their actions, A team member may continue to feed his or her own personal career goals or departmental interests and disregard what is expected of them as a team member.


  • Team leaders need to communicate to the rest that positive results is the primary and most important objective.
  • Only those behaviours and actions must be rewarded which contribute to the desired result.

 Now that you are aware of what dysfunctions can occur in a team, you will be better equipped to nip these problems in the bud. Building trust and motivating each other might take a lot of time, and might not show immediate results, but like all relationships, the initial plunge must be taken. Clearly communicating what you feel, working with clear goals and results in mind and meeting deadlines is a great way of avoiding dysfunctions in the tem from creeping up.

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