Two key indicators of a healthy team are that they are productive (getting tasks done to standards, on budget and on time) and effective (working together with a minimum of drama.)
A 2013 University of Phoenix survey revealed that nearly 7 in 10 American workers have served on dysfunctional teams. Though 95% reported that teams serve an important function in organizations, less than 24% of respondents prefer to work on teams.
Further details reveal common issues in teams:
- 40% have witnessed a verbal confrontation
- 15% have seen confrontations turn physical
- 40% reported a team member blaming another member for problems
- 32% observed a team member start a rumor about another member
Sadly, left to ourselves, we humans don’t always behave well with others. We often give into the temptation to leverage information and power to benefit ourselves, which creates an “I win, you lose” culture.
Self-Serving Team Members
Where do we learn to be selfish? Although it can be innate “wired” behavior, it is often likely that it is “acquired” behavior, learned through watching the dynamics in the family, school, sports, or the community. We observe and practice behaviors that are modeled or tolerated by leaders and peers.
I believe many of us have been blessed to have served on a productive and effective team at least once in our lives. However, the research suggests that too often, teams are not productive AND effective. This is not only frustrating for team members but can cost real money. A 2009 study of New Zealand businesses found that one unproductive team can cost a company $140,000 a year.
Most of the senior leadership teams I work with are teams in name only. They do not have a common purpose or shared values and goals. They’re not partnered with a requirement that they work together. Instead, they are simply a group of people who meet regularly to fight each other for resources (funds, people, etc.) every day.
I engage to help these “groups” create a shared servant purpose and identify their values, strategies, and goals. We create agreements to help each member align their behaviors with those stated values. We develop clear expectations. Without these in place, team members can quickly resort to actions that serve their own interests, which severely affects the team’s overall productivity and effectiveness.
It doesn’t take much to identify a dysfunctional team. Don’t tolerate it. Step in and intentionally guide the team to clarify why they exist, and what they can expect from one another as they work together to fulfill their purpose. You are likely to start seeing your teams thrive.
S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration.
He writes books and articles and records podcasts.
In his free time, he’s a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.