A recent 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% of those who have served on work teams witnessed a verbal confrontation; 15% indicated they saw confrontations turn physical. 40% reported a team member blaming another team mate for problems, and 32% said they’d observed a team member start a rumor about a team mate.
Left to our own devices, humans don’t always behave well with others. We can choose to leverage information and power for our own benefit, creating a “win/lose” scenario for fellow team members.
Self-Serving Team Members
Where do we humans learn such selfish behaviors? In many cases, it’s not “wired” behavior, innate to us (though that can be a contributing factor). It’s often “acquired” behavior, gained through observation of human dynamics in our families, on the playground, in classrooms, in sports teams, or in community clubs. We observe then emulate behaviors that are reinforced or tolerated by leaders and peers around us.
I believe that many of us have enjoyed, at some point in time, serving on a productive and effective team or two. However, as this research attests, too few of the teams we serve on hit both those standards.
Ineffective teams are not only frustrating for team leaders and team members, but they cost businesses real money. A 2009 study of New Zealand businesses found that one unproductive team can cost a business $140,000 a year.
Most of the senior leadership teams I work with are not “teams” at all, with a common purpose and goals plus the requirement to work together to accomplish those. They are typically a “group,” an affiliation of individuals who come together regularly to battle each other for limited funds, people, and resources, day in and day out.
I help these senior leadership “groups” to formalize their team purpose, values, strategies and goals, then align to them. These agreements outline the team’s performance expectations and their values expectations for each other. Aligning to these agreements enables these groups to evolve into productive and effective teams.
In the absence of agreements about team purpose, values, strategies, and goals, team members can resort to any behavior that serves them, individually. Once that happens, team productiveness and effectiveness is a distant thought.
Don’t tolerate dysfunctional teams. Help team leaders and team members to clarity about the team’s performance and values expectations . . . coach them to align to those expectations . . . and watch the team and it’s members thrive.
Join in the conversation about this post/podcast in the comments section below. Are your divisions or teams both productive and effective? Do leaders tolerate dysfunctional teams in your organization? If not, how do they keep teams – and team members – on track?
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