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Dysfunctional team and challenges for managers

Equipe disfuncional e os desafios para os gestores - Blog Lyncas

A dysfunctional team faces significant challenges in communicating and achieving goals, due to internal conflicts, lack of trust or poor management. In an ideal scenario, the coexistence of a team in the workplace would be perfect harmony. Group or individual achievements would be celebrated and shared by everyone. However, the reality can be very different.

The truth is that conflicts are present in all areas of our lives, whether with family, friends or co-workers. The challenge arises when these conflicts spill over into the professional environment and negatively impact the team’s results.

According to research carried out by the Robert Half (in portuguese) consultancy, work environments that prioritize employees’ well-being and quality of life are 86% more productive and 70% more profitable.

Dysfunctional teams can occur in any company, and it is essential that the manager is prepared to deal with these situations. Conflicts that are not properly managed can not only harm the work environment, but also negatively affect customer relationships. Therefore, it is up to the manager to guide the team on the best path, ensuring that these conflicts do not go beyond the limit and compromise the quality of the service provided. But after all, what defines a team as dysfunctional? We will explore this concept and its implications below.

What is a dysfunctional team?

A dysfunctional team is one that has problems such as lack of trust, gossip, misalignment and lack of resources that can lead to various consequences such as strained relationships, as well as failure to achieve goals. For example, an IT team that is overloaded due to a lack of employees does not deliver its demands within the requested time, affecting the customer experience and generating unnecessary discussions that will not solve the problem.

High-performance teams work differently. They are based on trust, whether for each other or with the company, allowing for healthy conflicts that do not get out of control or require the manager’s time to resolve.

The level of enthusiasm and feeling of responsibility that are cultivated within these teams makes employees focus more on the objectives to be achieved and recognize when they make mistakes, seeing it as an opportunity for growth thinking about the greater good and not just individual demands.

The 5 main dysfunctions presented by a team

Managing a team is not always an easy task, according to writer Patrick Lencioni of ”The 5 Challenges of Teams”, there are 5 natural traps that prevent people from working in a healthy team, based on a lack of trust that corroborates the other four dysfunctions arise.

  1. Lack of confidence;
  2. Fear of conflicts;
  3. Lack of commitment;
  4. Avoid holding others responsible;
  5. Lack of attention to results.

Lack of confidence: 

When team members don’t feel it’s safe to open up to people, they act out of fear of expressing their ideas, fear of asking for help and fear of admitting mistakes. Generating a negative atmosphere where no one shares your desires, making frank communication and problem resolution impossible.

Examples of behaviors that suggest a lack of trust among members of a dysfunctional team:

  • Micromanagement
  • Lack of open and honest communication
  • Public criticism
  • Gossip about colleagues
  • Exclude colleagues and set up “cliques”

Fear of conflicts:

As contradictory as it may seem, the fear of conflict also contributes to a dysfunctional team, preventing employees from expressing their opinions and hiding their feelings, making constructive dialogue and debate impossible.

Examples of behaviors that suggest fear of conflict among team members:

  • Passive compliance, i.e. not expressing your opinions in meetings or discussions
  • Ignoring underlying problems in the hope that they will go away on their own
  • Giving up sharing innovative ideas to avoid criticism
  • Avoid confrontations, even if they help resolve a problem
  • Not seeking promotions for fear of competing with colleagues
  • Postponing difficult decisions

Lack of commitment:

In a dysfunctional team, in which there is no trust between team members, naturally, they will not discuss possible solutions and the consequence will be a lack of commitment to the possible resolution of the problem. The fear of conflict prevents people from discussing important issues and not committing to decisions made by other people, thus opening up questions like: ‘’Why commit to something that I didn’t decide? ” appear in the heads of these employees who end up doing only the minimum order.

Lack of commitment in a dysfunctional team can manifest itself in many ways. Here are some examples of behaviors that demonstrate this lack of commitment:

  • Failure to meet deadlines;
  • Lack of involvement in team activities;
  • Lack of initiative;
  • Resistance to change or feedback;
  • Lack of interest in learning and growing.

Avoid holding others responsible:

As there is no commitment to the demands, when a challenge arises, even the most engaged people do not feel capable of resolving it, blaming other colleagues for the activity that they themselves did not carry out.

Examples of behaviors that seek to hold other people accountable:

  • Blaming other people for failures that arise in a project;
  • Not admitting your mistakes, blaming the people around you;
  • Highlighting colleagues’ failures as a form of ridicule;
  • Taking credit for the work done by others, rather than recognizing and valuing each member’s individual contributions;
  • Lack of transparency with the team when they hide information or try to cover up their own failures to avoid being held responsible for them.

Lack of attention to results:

The last dysfunction occurs in the movement of focusing on oneself instead of thinking about the whole. Many people distract themselves from the group’s goals to focus on personal goals, whether career or financial, in some situations their individual achievements take precedence over the team’s.

A lack of attention to results in a dysfunctional team can seriously harm the group’s overall performance and success. Here are some examples of behaviors that demonstrate this lack of focus on results:

  • Prioritization of personal interests;
  • Ignoring performance metrics, missing the opportunity to improve or adjust the strategy to achieve expected results;
  • Neglect with the quality of work and lack of effort in producing high quality work, within established standards;
  • Not learning from mistakes, or even worse, persisting in them.

Therefore, teamwork works in a domino effect, where trust leads to healthy conflicts, which leads to commitment, which brings responsibility that generates focus on results.

What are the impacts of conflicts on teamwork?

Conflicts at work don’t just disrupt the employees involved in the situations, they affect the company’s entire performance and the customer experience. According to the Customer Experience Trends report, carried out by Zendesk in 2024, around 60% of customers base their purchasing decisions on the quality of service they expect to receive.

Conflicting teams create a tense work environment, characterized by harsh communication, excessive authoritarianism, lack of collaboration, constant complaints, disrespect for differences and the spread of gossip among employees.

This dynamic compromises productivity, motivation and the quality of work delivered, resulting in unsatisfactory customer service and financial losses for the business.

Negative impact on employees:

  • Productivity losses
  • Compromised mental health
  • Increase in the number of absences and delays

Negative impacts for the company:

  • Loss of employees
  • Termination costs
  • Judicial actions
  • Brand devaluation

Role of the manager in resolving these conflicts

We cannot forget that all teams are made up of imperfect people, and it is up to the manager of that team to lead so that there is synergy and harmony between the team.

According to Lencioni, the ”best way to deal with problems is to embrace common sense with an unusual degree of perseverance”, which involves establishing a solid foundation of trust among team members and promoting clear and open communication to understand individual fears and concerns.

When conflicts arise within the team, the manager’s role should be that of mediator, facilitating constructive and inclusive discussions. Furthermore, it is important to set clear expectations and hold members accountable for achieving goals, maintaining a focus on collective results to strengthen the team. The manager must also model the desired behavior, being an example of collaboration and respect among colleagues, demonstrating the qualities he wants to see in the team.

But how to do this? For managers looking for resources to help them solve these challenges, we recommend the article on 7 fundamental skills and competencies of a manager that provides valuable tips for overcoming these challenges.

A dysfunctional team is one that faces challenges such as lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoids holding others accountable and lacks attention to results. These dysfunctions can lead to loss of productivity, employee mental health problems, layoff costs and devaluation of the brand. To deal with these challenges, managers play a crucial role, providing constructive debates, inclusion in decisions and achieving goals.

Strategies to promote sustainable results

Ultimately, overload on an IT team only increases challenges already related to team dysfunction. The main challenges already presented become even more evident when combined with the pressure of tight deadlines and increasing demands.

Neglecting results can be particularly dangerous, as the team can focus exclusively on meeting immediate demands, compromising the long-term strategic vision. In this scenario, the role of managers becomes even more essential. They not only need to resolve key team dysfunctions, but also ensure that work demands are carried out effectively.

This may involve redistributing tasks, providing additional resources (where plausible), and creating an environment where team members feel supported and empowered to meet challenges. By opting for approaches that encourage constructive discussions, participation in decisions, and accountability for achieving goals, managers can help alleviate the burden on the IT team.

This will not only increase harmony within the team, but also promote more focus on collective results, helping the company to face challenges more effectively and maintain its competitiveness in the constantly evolving market.

Want to know a little more about how to deal with your overloaded IT team and how to resolve it? Talk with us

As the Head of International Business at Lyncas, I lead the expansion and growth of our company for US market. With over 15 years of experience in the IT and design field, I have a strong technical background and a creative vision that enable me to understand and meet the needs of our clients and partners.