11 Causes of Team Dysfunction and What To Do About It

October 26, 2022
Smiling team with frustrated team around her

If you're leading a team that's not performing as well as you know it can, team dysfunction might be to blame. There are many different causes of team dysfunction, but some of the most common include a lack of trust, poor communication, lack of team cohesion, and team members not getting along.

While it can be difficult to overcome team dysfunction, it's not impossible. The first step is to identify the causes of the team's dysfunction. Once you know what's causing the problem, you can start taking steps to fix it.

In this article we will explore 11 of the most common causes of team dysfunction, and what you can do to mitigate or solve them.

1. Team members not working together

The most common cause of team dysfunction are team members not working together. When team members are not cooperating, it can lead to a lack of progress and success. The most common reasons why teams don't work together is because they don't agree on what the team should be doing, there's a lack of trust in the abilities of individual team members, and there's a lack of clear leadership guidance.

What To Do About It: It's important to first start by establishing team goals and objectives. Team members need to be clear on what the team is trying to achieve. This can be done in writing, through the creation of a document like a team charter, which outlines the team's purpose, goals, and objectives.

The team needs to build trust in each other's abilities and have faith that the team can succeed. One of the best ways to achieve this is by participating in team building activities that focus on trust-building and require team members to rely on each other.

It's also important to have a leader who can provide clear guidance and direction. The leader should be someone who is respected by the team and who can help to motivate them. This person should be able to provide clear instructions on what the team needs to do in order to achieve its goals.

2. Team communication problems

Team communication problems happen when team members do not communicate effectively with each other. This can lead to frustration that spreads to everyone, and a general lack of progress and success. The most common reasons why team communication breaks down is because team members either have poor relationships with each other, or team members not using the right forms of communication in different circumstances.

What To Do About It: Team members first need to start talking to each other. They need to be encouraged to share information, ideas, and thoughts. This can be done in person during team meetings, team emails, or team chat rooms. It is important that teams continuously work on establishing better relationships with each other, whether working together or participating in team building activities.

When team members are communicating, they need to use the right communication channels. It is important that team members determine which channels that are most effective and efficient for the various conversations and discussions they have. For example, if a team wants to brainstorm new ideas, using team collaboration tools like Slack or Google Docs might be best. Or if a team wants to give specific feedback about a recently completed project then this might be best done through in-person meetings.

3. Lack of trust

Lack of trust happens when team members don't trust each other or the team's leader. The most common cause of a lack trust is because team members have different goals, they don't have faith in each other's abilities, or team members feel like they are not being heard. This can lead to team members choosing to not work together and become isolated from each other.

What To Do About It: The first step to overcoming a lack of trust is to establish team goals and objectives that everyone agrees on. This can be done in writing, through a team charter that outlines the team's purpose, goals, and objectives. The team leader must ensure that all team members clearly understand the values in the charter and identify any discrepancies in perspective so that they can be cleared up quickly.

It is important to have faith in each other's abilities and to trust that the team can succeed. One of the best ways to achieve this is by continuously highlighting everybody's strengths to the group with specific examples, so that the entire team can clearly see the value that each individual brings.

Finally, it's essential that team members feel like they are being heard. This means that leaders need to encourage team members to share their ideas and thoughts, and for the team to listen attentively and have the opportunity to provide feedback.

4. Conflict resolution issues

Conflict resolution issues happen when team members are not able to resolve their differences. This can lead to a splintering of the team and members choosing to not cooperate and work together. The most common reasons why team conflict occurs is because team members have personality conflicts because they have not built strong enough relationships with each other.

What To Do About It: To overcome this team members first need to learn how to resolve their differences. This is an important skill for team members to have, as it will allow them to work together more effectively and efficiently. Team members need to be taught how to identify the root cause of their conflict, how to communicate with each other effectively during conflict, and how to find a resolution that is agreeable to both parties. This can be done by attending workshops or training courses that focus on conflict resolution.

Team members also need to build stronger relationships with each other. This can be done by team members getting to know each other outside of work, participating in team building activities, and sharing personal information with each other. When team members have strong relationships they are more likely to trust and respect each other, which makes it easier to resolve conflicts.

5. Not feeling like part of the team

Not feeling like part of the team happens when team members feel left out or excluded. This often happens because individuals within teams tend to be drawn to those that are most similar to them, and so they form cliques that end up making other members of the team feel excluded. This feeling of exclusion can be amplified by team leaders who favor certain team members they are most drawn to over others.

What To Do About It: The first step to overcome this is for team leaders to be aware of the problem and make a conscious effort to include everyone in team activities. This can be done by ensuring that all team members have an equal opportunity to participate in decision-making, that team meetings are conducted in an inclusive manner, and that team members are encouraged to get to know each other outside of work.

In addition, team leaders need to make an effort to get to know all team members so that they can understand their individual needs and how to best meet them. Team leaders should encourage feedback from the team about their management style, and what they can do to improve themselves in making everyone feel welcome.

Finally, it's important for team members to make an effort to get to know each other and build strong relationships. This can be done by participating in team building activities, sharing personal information, and spending time together outside of work.

6. Lack of team cohesion

A lack of team cohesion occurs when team members are not working together towards a common goal. This often happens because team members have a poor understanding of where the team is headed and why. They feel like they are not part of the team and are powerless to do anything about it.

What To Do About It: Team leaders need to first ensure that team members have a clear understanding of the team's goals. This can be done by communicating the team's vision and objectives, and ensuring that team members are aware of their individual roles and responsibilities. Everybody on the team should have an important role on the team, and they should understand what makes their role important.

In addition, team leaders need to create a sense of unity within the team. This can be done by team members working together on projects, sharing information and ideas openly, and supporting each other. Team leaders should also encourage team building activities that help team members to get to know each other better and build stronger relationships.

7. Team members not getting along

When team members are not getting along, it creates an environment of conflict and tension. This often happens because team members have different personalities or communication styles that clash with each other. It can also happen because team members have different goals and objectives that they are trying to achieve.

What To Do About It: The first step is for team leaders to identify the source of the conflict. Once the source of the conflict is identified, team leaders then need to help affected team members resolve their differences. This can be done by facilitating open and honest communication between team members, encouraging team members to listen to each other's perspectives, and brainstorming possible solutions to the problem.

In addition, team leaders should create an environment of respect and trust. This can be done by setting clear rules and guidelines for team members to follow, and modeling the desired behavior themselves.

8. Team members not respecting each other

When team members do not respect each other, it creates an environment of mistrust and chaos. This often happens because team members have different values and beliefs that they are not willing to compromise on. It can also happen because team members have been treated disrespectfully in the past by other team members, and those wounds have never fully healed.

What To Do About It: The first step is for team leaders to identify the source of disrespect. Once the source of disrespect is identified, team leaders can then help team members to resolve the issue. This can be done by facilitating one-on-one conversations with the individuals involved, and also encouraging individuals to surface any issues they may be hiding in order to get them resolved.

Team leaders should always be trying to create an environment of respect and trust. This can be done by setting clear rules and guidelines for team members to follow, and by modeling the desired behavior themselves. Team building activities that help team members get to know each other better and build strong relationships can be particularly useful.

9. Team members not listening to each other

Team members not listening to each other can lead to a lack of cohesion and mistrust. This often happens because team members have different communication styles that clash with each other. It can also happen because team members are not fully aware of the importance of effective communication.

What To Do About It: The first step is for team leaders to identify the different personalities on the team and their various styles of communication. It is important to identify the uniqueness of each individual on the team so that team leaders can help team members understand and respect each other's communication needs.

Next, team leaders need to create an environment of open and honest communication. This can be done by encouraging team members to share their ideas and thoughts openly, and by listening to team members' suggestions. Team leaders should also provide team members with feedback regularly that says what they're doing well and what they could improve on.

10. Team members not being honest with each other

If team members are not honest with each other, it can lead to a lack of trust and respect. This often happens because team members are afraid of being judged or rejected by other team members. It can also happen because team members have different values and beliefs that they are not willing to compromise on.

What To Do About It: The first step is for team leaders to identify the source of dishonesty. Once the source of dishonesty is identified, team leaders need to help team members resolve the issue. This can be done by facilitating one-on-one conversations with the individuals involved, and taking appropriate corrective actions including disciplinary action if the dishonesty hurt the team.

Leaders must create an environment of honesty. This needs to start with them being honest with the team first, and then encouraging team members to share their ideas and thoughts openly. Team leaders should also provide team members with feedback regularly so that people feel comfortable coming to them with concerns.

11. Team members not being open to new ideas

If team members are not open to new ideas, it can lead to stagnation and a lack of creativity. This often happens because team members are set in their ways and resistant to change. It can also happen because team members are afraid of failure or of being judged by other team members.

What To Do About It: Leaders need to first understand why the team is resistant to new ideas. The root cause of this is often because of a negative team culture that makes team members afraid to rock the boat. Once team leaders identify the source of the problem, they can take steps to change the team culture. This can be done by introducing new policies and procedures that encourage team members to be more open to new ideas and setting an example for team members to follow.

It is also important for team leaders to encourage team members to share their ideas openly. Leaders should provide team members with feedback on their ideas, and give them the opportunity to test out their ideas in a safe and supportive environment. Leaders should also recognize and reward team members who come up with new ideas that are successfully implemented. Only by encouraging team members to be open to new ideas will the team be able to move forward and innovate.

Happy team smiling

Conclusion

While team dysfunction is caused by several different factors there are some common themes that team leaders need to be aware of. The first step is to identify the source of the team dysfunction. Once the source is identified, team leaders are then able to take steps to rectify the situation. This is often achieved by changing team policies and procedures, setting an example for team members to follow, and encouraging team members to share their ideas openly. Only by taking these steps will team leaders be able to create a team that functions effectively and efficiently.

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