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5 Dysfunctions of a Team


Michelle Elliot


18th April 2020


Are your managers comfortable openly discussing conflicting opinions with work colleagues? If not, then, potentially, your organisation has a problem brewing…

Every business and organisation will come up against problems within teams of employees. Successful organisations understand this, and proactively look to turn the negatives into positives.

One of the titles on our recommended reading list for students studying our Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship (CMDA) is a book by Patrick Lencioni, 5 dysfunctions of a team. We look a bit further into the dysfunctions Lencioni discusses, and suggest some ways of turning these into positives.

Not many would disagree with the point, that creating a good working environment is key to success in any organisation, as typically we spend more time with our ‘work family’ than our actual family (even if it is currently online!). Lencioni observed thousands of businesses, small and large, and discovered some very clear patterns in behavioural tendencies that led to breakdowns in teams. So, how does he suggest these dysfunctions be turned into positive and constructive behaviours?

Absence of trust

Dysfunction – An absence of trust occurs when employees are unwilling to be ‘vulnerable’ or cannot admit mistakes and weaknesses. If employees can’t be comfortable with one another, how can trust be formed?

Solution – A great way to tackle this is by beginning to admit your own weaknesses and mistakes. You could also work on team building exercises to help the members open up to each other.

Fear of conflict

Dysfunction – Would you be comfortable openly discussing conflicting opinions with work colleagues? If not, then you have a problem. Provided they are handled respectfully, engaging in passionate and often unfiltered debates about key issues within the business, organisation or sector is vital to progress the business and create success. If this discussion does not take place incorrect decisions could be made, and often it could eventually lead to personal attacks, as the problem was not openly discussed.

Solution – Healthy conflict is actually a timesaver. You can remove ideas that people are not on board with, and go forward with the ones everyone believes in. Try suggesting a bad idea at the start of a meeting to see if anyone will speak up against it, and then move forward with the key matter at hand. As a leader or manager, you must also make sure to give healthy, positive feedback to good ideas, which will help employees feel comfortable giving both positive and negative feedback in future discussions. However, constructive conflict can’t take place until you solve the first dysfunction and build trust within the team.

Lack of commitment

Dysfunction – If your employees aren’t committed to your ideas, business or organisation then you’re setting yourself up to fail. This is because they won’t put as much interest and effort into work as needed. Without conflict you can’t have commitment.

Solution – To try help boost commitment, make sure you set clear deadlines for work, have open and honest discussions in meetings where each employee can make their voice heard, review key decisions as a team and create a plan or timeline so each employee knows what they are doing, who they will send the work to, and when it must be completed.

Avoidance of accountability

Dysfunction – If the team hasn’t fully committed to the work plan, then they are unlikely to be held accountable for mistakes if they were to occur. Even dedicated and focused employees may be unwilling to call on, and highlight bad behaviours of colleagues if they do not believe in the project being undertaken. This can lead to poor performance for the work, and potentially the loss of a client.

Solution – Employees will only hold themselves and colleagues accountable if they have the trust and commitment to do so, and also voice their concerns earlier in the process through constructive criticism and conflict. If you have achieved all this has, they will hopefully feel comfortable enough to discuss colleagues’ behaviour in an open and frank way, without the worry of it coming across as an attack on the person.

Inattention to results

Dysfunction – Although it is a natural thing for an employee to put themselves and their progression above that of the business or organisation when they are not held accountable for their actions throughout the process, the results of the team on a whole must be the focus. If this does not happen, then the business or organisation will suffer and not meet the goals. Working together on a common goal with the results as the focus is necessary for success.

Solution – If you have achieved all the previous steps, then it is easier for employees to put their own needs and goals aside and focus on the business or organisations results for the sake of progress and success. Make sure to refocus the team throughout the project, to ensure you meet the goals in full.

If you would like more help or information on helping employees, read our managers guides here; https://da.ucq.ac.uk/category/managers-guides/.

The following three guides are especially great in relation to the above dysfunctions;




If you would like to learn more about our Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, you can do so here; https://da.ucq.ac.uk/chartered-manager-degree-apprenticeship/.