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5 Unexpected Factors That Can Kill Your Team’s Dynamic

10 December 2014 No Comment

When you work in a team environment, you know that the team’s dynamic plays a vital role in whether the team is a functioning, successful group, or whether it’s rife with conflict, misunderstandings, and missed deadlines and opportunities.


While some argue that all teams have at least a few areas of dysfunction that affect how members relate to each other and accomplish their goals, there are a few behaviors that are almost guaranteed to kill a team’s dynamic and lead to problems. Learning to identify these factors and take steps to mitigate them is an important part of leading any team, because if you let them go unchecked, you could find that not only will morale suffer, but so too will productivity.

  1. Sarcasm

By definition, sarcasm is saying something that is sharp or biting — and when you are working with a team, such remarks can only serve to hurt the team dynamic. Some people naturally have a dry and sarcastic sense of humor, and generally do not mean any harm with their words; they are just trying to be funny. However, when someone else doesn’t share that sense of humor, or doesn’t appreciate that the sarcastic response is meant to be humorous, misunderstandings and hurt feelings arise.

While the occasional sarcastic comment, in the right moment, can be funny or appropriate, making a habit of sarcasm will eventually break down the team’s ability to communicate and work together. If you have been told that you are sarcastic, or if sarcasm is a problem on your team, pay more attention to what you are saying and how you are saying it. Focus on saying things that are constructive and helpful, without trying to be humorous.

  1. Manipulation

No one likes being manipulated. Being goaded into doing something that you don’t want to do by someone who preys on your emotions, your commitment to your career, or your fears is one of the worst feelings that anyone can have at work. And when a team member is manipulative — using another person’s fear of failure against them, for example, or preying on someone else’s desire to please to get out of doing unpleasant tasks – it only builds resentment and distrust. You can’t trust a manipulator’s motives. The best course of action when faced with a manipulator is to recognize it for what it is, and do your best to take a stand against it. It might not always be easy, but when you refuse to allow a manipulator to fracture the team dynamic, everyone benefits.


  1. Selfishness

From the time we are children, we are taught, “There is no I in team.” Yet that lesson doesn’t always sink in, and we end up working on teams with adults who put their own interests ahead of those of the team, the project, or the organization. Selfishness manifests as an unwillingness to give credit where it’s due, failing to meet deadlines, completing tasks without team input, and generally behaving as if one is working solo, and not part of a team. It’s often difficult to get a selfish person to change their ways, but recognizing the behavior and addressing it with the offender is a good first step in rectifying the problem.

  1. Fear of Conflict

Almost no one likes conflict, yet it is an almost inevitable part of working in a team. However, avoiding conflict is just as unhealthy and counterproductive as constant conflict. Avoiding conflict creates a wide range of issues: Resentment due to unaddressed issues may build, new ideas never come to light, and alternative solutions go unexplored. However, you can take a page from military strategy experts like General Stanley McChrystal and learn how to deal with conflict in constructive ways. Healthy conflict is an important part of functioning team dynamics, so embracing it and learning to deal with it effectively is far better than avoiding and fearing it.

  1. Avoiding Accountability

Teams are only successful when their members maintain accountability for their roles. When the team lets others off the hook when they fail to meet their obligations, they lower the standards and create a culture of “I’ll get to it later.” Holding each other accountable isn’t about being taskmasters or tattletales. It’s about ensuring that the entire team is working up to its potential and that goals are met. Demanding accountability also keeps the team honest, and prevents team members from veering into selfish or manipulative territory.

Team dynamics can make the difference between a successful project and one that falls apart at the seams. When you learn to recognize the factors that are destructive to a heathy dynamic and take action, you increase the chances of success for both your team and your organization.

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