Chances are, if you’ve served on very many teams, you’ve served on one which is dysfunctional. It appears to me we have many to choose from in the organizational world. There are no perfect teams. We are all dysfunctional at some level and during some seasons.

In case you’re wondering- my definition of a dysfunctional team – in simple terms – is one which cannot operate at peak efficiency and performance, because it is impacted by too many negative characteristics. There’s more going wrong than right more days than not.

In my experience, there are commonalities of dysfunction. If you have been on a dysfunctional team you’ve probably seen one or more of of the common traits.

See if any of these seem familiar.

7 indicators of a dysfunctional team:

Team members talk about each other more than to each other. The atmosphere is passive aggressive. Problems are never really addressed, because conflict is avoided. The real problems are continually ignored or excused.

Mediocrity is celebrated. Everything may even be labeled “amazing”. Nothing ever really develops or improves because no one has or inspires a vision bigger than what the team is currently experiencing.

It’s never “our” fault. It’s the completion or the culture or the times in which we live. No one takes responsibility. And, everyone passes blame. Will the real leader please stand up?

Communication usually brings more tension than progress. There may be lots of information, but it’s not packaged in a way which brings clarity. No one knows or recognizes a win.

The mention of change makes everyone nervous. Either change is rare or it’s been instituted wrong in the past. Any real progress has to be forced or controlled.

Only the leader gets recognition or can make decisions. Team members never feel valued or appreciated. No one feels empowered. The leader uses words like “I” or “my” more than “we” or “our”.

There are competing visions, goals or objectives. It’s every team member for his or herself. The strategy or future direction isn’t clear.

According to my observations have you served on a dysfunctional team?

Granted, every team goes through each of these during seasons. Again, there are no perfect teams. But, if there are at least two or three of these at work current I’d say it’s a good time to evaluate the team’s health and work to make things healthier.

How many of these can you currently see on your team?

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Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 15 Comments

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    The Matt Townsend Show
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  • Todd says:

    Lived it for 2+ years. All 7 are right on the money!

  • Benny says:

    I completely agree with that list, and I am on a pretty dysfunctional team now, to the point where it stressed me out so much that I had trouble sleeping (I'm over that now). Every single point on your list is evident on my team, in addition to my boss showing favoritism to his "inner circle," which of course, I am not on. There is so much gossiping and name bashing, plus absolutely no transparency. I am actively looking for another job.

  • Amy says:

    My office is 7/7. That's good, right? : |

  • dannyjbixby says:

    Replace "team member" with "department" and you just created the 7 signs of a dysfunctional church.

  • Brenda Chance says:

    Good list. I would add: 1-Informational switch-a-roo, depending on who is in the room. 2-The prevalence of favoritism/bias . You add these two and you have death by dysfunction. A very toxic and unproductive environment indeed. The honesty factor you mention is key. There has to be a deep conviction to truth. Teams whose members master in duplicitousness can't experience true unity–only the illusion of it. Thanks for your insight.

  • Aaron Springer

    History and heritage get confused… Things are done just because “It’s the way we do things” and the real reason behind doing things is never explored.

    Ideas don’t blossom into fruition.

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