There are lots of different types of dysfunctional teams. Some suffer from a lack of priorities or unclear roles and responsibilities; others try so hard to agree with one another and avoid conflict that there is little innovation. Another common problem is team members who are either too forceful with their own ideas or too apathetic. Any one of these dynamics can cause friction and deterioration within the group.
The question is – how do you fix these issues? The good news is that it does not always have to be the team leader or the manager that gets individuals to take ownership of the situation. Here are some things that anyone can do in order to strengthen a team they are on.
Understand that different people play different roles
Diversity is part of what makes a team effective. It is important that you have individuals with different skills and perspectives who can play different roles. Instead of trying to force these roles onto people, it is best to recognize potential and let them manifest naturally. For example, the person facilitating the meetings does not always need to be the team leader. If someone else is particularly skilled in this department, it makes sense for him or her to step up and take on this responsibility.
Build respect and rapport
It is important to know who you are working with. Getting to know one another is critical to establishing trust and helping individuals feel safe sharing their ideas and opinions. Many teams make the mistake of skipping over this step in the beginning. By first becoming comfortable with one another and developing a shared language, it will be much easier to address potential conflicts if and when they arise.
Recognize opportunity in conflict
Conflict does not have to be a bad thing. In fact, teams can suffer when members are too afraid or otherwise unwilling to address issues. The key is to do so in a way that increases understanding or improves the work product. There may be times where it is appropriate to discuss issues with a manager. If you do this, it is important to not sound like you are just complaining about a team member. Instead, talk about the issue in terms of group performance, and discuss whether there are things that you can personally do to improve the dynamic.
Truly effective teams are rare. By effectively addressing the issues that lead to dysfunctional teams, you can improve productivity and decision making, as well as creativity and workplace morale.