4 ways to overcome team dysfunction

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13:00 PM

“No one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in his award-winning book about creativity and achievement, Outliers.

 Unfortunately, it's not unusual to experience at least one toxic workplace during the life of your career – the broad mix of personalities involved often creates difficulties for healthy team development unless leaders exhibit exceptional skill.

It's extraordinary  more businesses don't devote extensive resources into developing team trust – as Patrick Lencioni once said: "If you could get all the people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

Studies show that team dysfunction, however, takes a massive toll on individual workers, leading to acute stress, poor job satisfaction, lack of productivity, depression and physical illness. Toxic teams cost businesses time, consumers and profits as extra funds must be invested in team coaching, mediation, conflict resolution and performance management.

One team's dysfunction can even spread like a virus through the rest of the organisation, threatening the survival of the business itself. Given the seriousness of toxicity in the workplace, then, why is it so prevalent?

Building team trust is essential to coaching a team beyond its dysfunctional habits. Here are four ways to help eradicate toxic behaviour at your workplace:

  1. Lead by example. Research shows team leaders play a crucial role in defusing their team's toxicity. By initiating thoughtful, pertinent and non-judgemental conversations in a timely and appropriate manner, a team's leader can boost morale and provide a blueprint of how team members should behave. Of course, if the problem stems from the team leader, another respected team member, a manager or an outsourced consultant may be better placed to start such crucial conversations.
  2. Share a vision. It may sound hokey but building a team mission and vision together can provide a clear structure and workplace context that helps set all team members ‘rowing' in the same direction. By involving every member of the team in establishing the way forward, you create team goal buy-in. Even if a team has a long history of toxicity and dysfunction, this process can be a way of putting the past to rest and starting anew.
  3. Highlight effective communication. Just because team members disagree doesn’t mean the team should fall apart. Train workers how to debate issues and problem-solve respectfully and constructively to move towards a shared goal, rather than be destructive. Holding grudges, arguing the toss, complaining about team decisions and failing to work towards win-win scenarios can destroy a team very quickly. By contrast, learning and applying great team communication skills can foster better group decisions, the emergence of new solutions and greater business innovation.
  4. Shut down bullying behaviour. Bullying lies at the heart of many toxic workplaces. Understanding how a bully works goes a long way toward negating them. Call out bullying techniques as unacceptable in the workplace – these include subtle and overt tactics like humiliation, sabotaging others, undervaluing, ignoring, interrupting, undermining, spreading gossip, making unfounded accusations, glaring and yelling to get one’s own way. For many bullies, such behaviour is learned – they might genuinely be unaware these actions are toxic. Equip team members with the skills to defuse a bully’s power and watch as team trust returns.

Speak to us at Collectiveiq to discover how we can help you build highly functional teams through developing team trust.