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Spotting the Red Flags: Symptoms and Cures of Dysfunctional Teams

Teams are the fundamental units of organizational success, the gears that keep processes running smoothly. These teams help companies move forward by combining ideas from different individuals to achieve a common goal or solve a specific problem. However, dysfunction can be a major issue for a system that works efficiently when all components are in sync.

Dysfunctional teams are more common than you might think, but what prevents chaos from breaking out is how early you spot the problem and handle it accordingly. Fortunately, this article will help you spot the symptoms of dysfunctional teams and show you how to solve this issue. Let’s get started and get your team back on track!

What is a dysfunctional team?

A dysfunctional team is one that constantly fails to meet its goals and objectives due to a lack of collaboration among its members. This dysfunction can be attributed to a combination of factors that disrupt team members’ ability to perform their respective functions in sync.

The foundation of dysfunction typically stems from a lack of trust, communication, and harmony, eventually leading to the team’s failure to meet its goals. In the long run, this could also prevent the company from reaching its objectives as well.

Dysfunctional teams are often characterized by an atmosphere where people are more focused on achieving personal goals, misinterpreting each other, and, in extreme cases, occasionally breaking into fights.

What are the symptoms of a dysfunctional team?

A team arguing

It’s easy to overlook some of the signs of team dysfunction and treat them as minor hiccups. However, you must know the signs of a dysfunctional team so you can take appropriate action in due time. Here are some of the most common ones: 

1. Poor communication

The truth is that when working with a team, it is possible that occasionally, there might be some hurdles or breaks in communication. However, this becomes an issue when the total level of communication within the team reduces to a chronic level.

When communication within the team is poor, members withhold information from each other, fail to listen to others, and often misinterpret themselves. This could lead to misunderstandings, duplicated efforts, or no efforts from the team at all.

2. Accountability avoidance

In dysfunctional teams, members refuse to accept responsibility for unachieved goals or responsibilities. Rather than taking responsibility for their actions, they blame external factors or other team members.

This lack of accountability makes it difficult to track the source of the dysfunction at the beginning, leading to the compilation of issues that could harm the team’s efficiency.

3. Frequent conflict

Healthy conflict is important for teams to solve problems, especially since different people have different views, and this contrast could cause some friction. However, the more frequent these team disputes occur, the more unhealthy they become.

This conflict could either take the form of silent fallouts, where some team members make decisions without telling others, or voiced ones characterized by active aggressiveness. Whichever the case, it results in a tense atmosphere that is in-conducive to collaboration and team innovation.

4. Lack of commitment

Within dysfunctional teams, you’d notice some team members losing their motivation and commitment to their responsibilities. This lack of commitment stems from a position where teammates don’t feel valued, supported, appreciated, or connected to the team.

Lack of commitment in dysfunctional teams results in low performance in individual roles, leading to ineffective teamwork. It can also lead to high absenteeism and low employee retention.

5. Lack of attention to results

In a dysfunctional team, the teammates focus more on personal goals than collaborative ones. This lack of attention to team objectives leads to teammates getting distracted from their roles and responsibilities and, ultimately, inefficiency.

Furthermore, a lack of attention to team goals and increased focus on individual goals could lead to unhealthy competition between teammates. In this situation, the team meant to work in sync loses its harmony and becomes unable to work together.

How to avoid building a dysfunctional team through effective hiring

Building a cohesive, high-performing team begins with effective hiring. By selecting potential employees with collaboration skills and good communication, you set your teams up for success. To achieve effective recruitment and build a functional team, here are some practices you should adopt:

1. Define clear role requirements in your job description

Writing a job description during recruitment is a critical process because it provides all the information about a position to the candidates. Aside from highlighting the technical skills required for a position, it is important to define the soft skills and personality traits, such as problem-solving and active listening, that will contribute to team cohesion.

With that said, when writing a job description for a role, it is important to involve the team as much as possible. This allows you to get insights about the characteristics it would take for the new hire to fit into the team. Some organizations even go as far as including these team members in multiple aspects of the recruitment process. 

2. Assess cultural fit

Assessing cultural fit in recruitment is just as important as evaluating a candidate’s technical skills. Cultural fit defines how compatible a candidate is with your organization’s culture.

Essentially, checking for cultural fit helps you discover whether or not the candidate can adapt to your company’s values and thrive with your team. To properly evaluate this metric, you can ask questions about their work style, conflict management, and collaboration skills.

3. Evaluate your team’s dynamics before making a new hire

Before putting out a job posting for a new teammate, you must consider how well a new hire would complement the team. Evaluating team dynamics involves measuring your team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Doing this helps build a team in which teammates balance each other out and support each other to achieve their goals.

4. Leverage realistic job previews

When assessing candidates’ skills and cultural fit, use realistic job previews that paint a day-in-the-life picture of the role. In this preview, you can include team-based questions that allow the candidates to demonstrate their collaboration and communication skills.

Candidates who pass realistic job previews or job simulations are more likely to thrive in their roles within the team.

5. Invest in onboarding strategies

According to Gallup, only 12% of US employees attest to good onboarding strategies from their organization. Based on this information, it’s safe to say that numerous companies today haven’t implemented good onboarding strategies in their hiring cycle.

Onboarding your new hires involves training them in their new roles even as they perform their functions. For those working with teams, this means that they get a proper introduction to the team and what collaboration means for your organization. This can help them settle in better and faster, boosting their productivity and motivating them to achieve team goals.

Raji Oluwaniyi

Raji Oluwaniyi

Raji Oluwaniyi is a seasoned Technical Content Writer at Vervoe with a rich background of over five years in the intersection of HR technology, consumer data protection, and SaaS. He has garnered significant recognition and has worked with industry stalwarts like TestGorilla, Brightlio, MakeUseOf, and Careerkarma. Oluwaniyi has a continuous drive to evolve and keep himself up to trend with the latest technology trends and best practices in writing. Beyond his professional pursuits, he is a genuine soccer fan and profoundly values his quality time with his close friends.

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