… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

This day in HR Minion history: Dysfunctional Teams

Good morning my dears, I couldn’t let September go by without taking you on a trip back into HR Minion Blog history. I went deep back into the archives for this one, back when I was still wet behind the ears as a blogger. By the way, does anybody even know where the phrase “wet behind the ears” originated from anymore? Hold on, let me look it up…Oh, it’s an allusion to babies just being born they are still wet. So yeah, that really does fit. We’ve all learned something today. Enjoy!

Dysfunctional teams. I’ve read about them, seen them, and been on them. Who hasn’t? I had been planning this post for a couple of days now and then, lo and behold, a perfect case study came walking into my office this morning. How can I resist using it to illustrate the harms and convoluted thoughts that are the cornerstone of a dysfunctional team? The answer is that I can’t. I know blog post gold when I see it.

Shall we?

1. Dysfunction is not “normal” any more than it is acceptable. If you think that a dysfunctional, negative, and hostile work environment is normal, get out now! You have obviously drank the kool-aid and need to be re-programmed before you infect another company or team with your messed up perceptions of reality. Yes, co-workers disagree every now and then, but when at least one person is brought to tears each week we have a problem.

2. The Supervisor is responsible.
You may not be the one who started the fight, but you certainly aren’t the one who is ending it. This is your team. Take ownership of your employees behavior and the part you played in enabling it. Dysfunctional teams don’t go from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds. There is a gradual build up of problems that when ignored feed off itself. You may have 8 years as a supervisor but that doesn’t mean you are a leader or even doing a good job.

3. Dysfunctional teams will drag down good employees to their level.
The worst thing you can do to a good employee is to put them on a dysfunctional team. It will change them. When you spend everyday in a toxic environment you can’t help but respond in kind. It is a rare person who can stay above a pervasive negative environment and not give in. I know. I’ve been there and I got out as soon as I caught myself. You don’t want to lose your best people that way. Fix the team first.

4. Ignoring your associates perceptions is the fastest way to a lawsuit. If your only response to a complaint is that the person is overreacting then you might as well call the lawyers right now. I don’t care what you think, I care what they think. And so would a judge. If they perceive a behavior as consistent and harassing then that is all that matters. Instead of focusing on how they are misunderstanding you, why not take some time to think about how you are coming across. It’s called self-awareness. And shouldn’t a supervisor be neutral when it comes to associate bickering? Stop taking sides.

5. Pull your head out of the sand and take responsibility. It must be such a gratifyingly simple life when you never take responsibility for your actions. How easy to just blow off another’s feelings because you are having a bad day. They should just get over it and move on right? Nope, that’s not how it works. Everyone is responsible for creating a positive, professional work environment. And everyone is responsible for creating a negative, hostile work environment, if only through inaction. Remember, choosing not to take action is the same as choosing to let something continue.

Dysfunctional teams hold your company back. The longer you tolerate them the worse they get and the more people get pulled in. I’ve found that in truly bad cases the only thing you can do is a complete shake up. Move people around, terminate the irredeemable offenders, and bring in a leader who can actually do the job. Starting fresh is sometimes your only option. Just don’t wait too long or the lawyers will come to you.

Originally published on the HR Minion blog, Sept. 19, 2008.

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